Fast-food fans are a loyal and opinionated bunch. They will long debate which chain has the best chicken sandwich, the worst fries, the best deal on burgers, the tastiest milkshakes, and so on. Once a fast-food lover has picked their go-to favorite foods, there’s little another fast-food restaurant can do to turn them against their chosen spot. Unless a spot changes a beloved recipe.
McDonald’s is one chain that has caught flack for this a few times in the past. While many of these changes have been in the name of consumer health, we cannot help but mourn our beloved favorites. But the Golden Arches isn’t the only one to mess up a good thing. Here are eight times fast-food chains made a change to a fan-favorite food only to quickly regret the switch because these changes drove customers wild with rage.
If you were born in the mid-1980s or before, you may remember what an apple pie from McDonald’s should taste like. That’s because, up until the year 1992, McD’s fried their pies. And they were a delight. That year, however, the chain switched to baked apple pies, and the public was up in arms. Are the baked pies tasty? Sure, but they can never match the fried OGs.
Recently, back in that shadowy second pandemic year we remember as 2021, Wendy’s made a change to its French fry recipe it hoped would be a huge success. Instead, it was largely a fizzle, and a cause of ire to many, too. The chain’s new “Hot & Crispy” fries were intended, as the name suggests, to stay hotter and crispier for longer than other fries. But though they did manage that, they did not manage to taste very good to the palates of many customers. A reviewer from Brand Eating said they “have a slight fried batter taste [that] made the fries taste less potato-y,” while a writer with Mashed pointed out accusations that Wendy’s had merely made a copycat of Burger King fries.
According to The Takeout, Taco John’s made two changes to its popular hot sauce in 2022, and neither change was popular at all with customers. For starters, the chain changed the recipe slightly, and many people did not care for the new flavor, but adding insult to injury, the chain also simply began offering smaller bags of hot sauce, and that sent people into a rage.
For many years, French fries were conspicuously absent from the menu of a major fast-food chain: KFC. But no one cared, because KFC had those beloved potato wedges. Then, in 2020, per Business Insider, KFC swapped its potato wedges for more traditional fries and fans of the chain grew outright livid.
While the chain has not confirmed the assertion, many an internet sleuth has reported finding that, last year, many Chick-fil-A locations began serving smaller Chicken Sandwiches, shrinking the chain’s signature item without shrinking its price—a cardinal sin in the food industry.
In 2018, McDonald’s announced that its standard Happy Meal would, going forward, come with regular milk and a hamburger or Chicken McNuggets. This meant, per Business Insider, Happy Meals would no longer come with chocolate milk and cheeseburgers, a move that enraged many customers, most of them likely nostalgic parents, not kids. (That said, those items could still be requested.)
Per Mashed, starting in 2008, Domino’s Pizza underwent a very costly multi-year campaign to completely change its pizzas. The chain changed the recipe for the dough and the sauce, switched to a new cheese blend, switched topping suppliers, and more. The result was—if we can believe the marketing blitz—a whole new and improved lineup of pizzas. But many people missed the decades-old pies and could barely stomach the new pizzas.
One customer, sharing via The Ann Arbor News, spoke for many when saying: “The crust is alright but the garlic seasoning is awful!!!!!! It was too overpowering and left a bad taste in my mouth until the following morning, even after brushing my teeth twice to get rid of the garlic taste! I don’t mind a little bit of garlic but the old flavor was way better than what they are trying to pass off now. They need to go back to all fresh ingredients and stick with what put them on the map in the first place!”
In one of the most confounding cases here, we can totally see both sides of the issue with the 1990 change in how McDonald’s cooked its fries. That year, the chain switched from frying in beef tallow to using vegetable oil, and the fries have never been quite as good. They may have been a bit healthier but, at the time, called out lots of anger and even saw the company’s stock price dip for a while, per The Daily Meal.