Fast food is so familiar that it’s easy to think that nothing changes. We’ve all eaten so many Big Macs and Bacon Double Cheeseburgers by now that we’d feel confident identifying them anywhere. In many ways, that’s the whole point. Fast food is designed to be copied and cloned wherever you happen to be making it. A McDonald’s in Indiana should be no different to one in India.
However, just because the food feels the same wherever you go doesn’t mean that the formula doesn’t get tweaked. Throughout the fast food revolution of the last 50 years, brands have been experimenting and playing with some of their signature dishes, often without the public’s knowledge. The result is a constantly changing menu that may look the same, but is actually subtly different. Here are seven famous fast food recipe changes that you might have missed.
1. Maccies French Fries
The McDonald’s French fry is one of the greatest edible inventions of all time. The weird, indescribable balance between floppy, spongy and salty should taste horrible, but somehow ends up being awesome. However, there was a time when it was even better. In the 90s, McDonald’s changed from frying in beef fat to vegetable oil, which though it made their chips veggie friendly, sacrificed a lot in terms of flavour.
2. KFC Cooking Oil
McDonald’s haven’t been the only big brand to make some substantive changes to the way they cook. Though their signature recipe of 11 top secret herbs and spices has remained unchanged for decades, in 2007 KFC decided to replace their “undisclosed” trans-fat frying oil with a blend of canola and soybean. Many say it’s never been the same since.
3. Taco Bell Cheese
No one who’s ever eaten there seriously thinks that Taco Bell’s excuse for cheese is anything other than chemically enhanced yellow goop, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to make it look as palatable as possible. In 2017, the chain removed “Yellow Dye No.6” from its nacho cheese, replacing it with a natural alternative.
4. Wendy’s Chicken
You might expect fast food chains to be all about size. While in many cases bigger is still better, the changes made to Wendy’s chicken prove that size isn’t everything. After being criticised for the strange rubbery texture of their chicken, Wendy’s made a commitment to only use meat from smaller birds, since their flesh is invariably juicier and more tender.
5. Maccies Burgers
For years, the major beef between fast food giants Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s has focused around frozen food. Relentless teasing from the others about their reliance on chilly produce eventually forced McDonald’s into making a change. In 2018, they committed to a menu made up entirely of fresh beef, putting them on a level playing field with their bitter rivals.
6. Burger King Fries
Unlike their counterparts, the Burger King French fry has always been stiffer and crisper than the competition. To many, this marks it out as a cut above. However, determined not to sit on their laurels, the powers that be at King HQ decided a change was needed in 2011. They therefore decided to make their fries slightly thicker, and reduce the sodium by around 20%.
7. Domino’s Pizza
It might now be established as the daddy of decadent pizza delivery, but Domino's has had to go through some rock patches on the road to success. In 2009, with their reputation at an all time low, the chain decided to shake up their formula. Instead of sticking with tired, poor quality ingredients, they changed their recipe to include real mozzarella; a sweeter, deeper tomato sauce with herbs and red pepper; and a garlic-dusted crust. The rest is history.
In the fast food game, not every change will bring success. Some fans get so attached that the slightest hint of difference is greeted with howls of dismay. Nonetheless, as these stories prove, sometimes the risk is worth it. Clearly, these brands are all doing better than ever.