Burger Blunders: A Look at the Biggest Missteps in Burger History

Burger Blunders

Burgers, as universally adored as they are, have not been immune to missteps. Over the years, various attempts to innovate or market them differently have often missed the mark. This article delves into some of the most notable burger blunders, offering a different perspective on this beloved food item’s journey.

1. The 1960s: Fast Food’s First Misfires

The 1960s, a booming time for fast food, also saw its share of burger mishaps.

  • Burger King’s “Yumbo”: Introduced in the ’60s, this ham and cheese sandwich was BK’s attempt to diversify. However, it didn’t resonate with the audience and was discontinued, only to be briefly revived in 2014 for nostalgic reasons.

2. The 1970s: Overambitious Expansions

In the wake of booming popularity, burger chains sought to diversify their offerings, sometimes with less than stellar results.

  • McDonald’s “Hula Burger”: Aiming to cater to Catholics abstaining from meat on Fridays, this pineapple slice replacing a meat patty was quickly overshadowed by the Filet-O-Fish.

3. The 1980s: Health Concerns and Marketing Missteps

The ’80s saw rising health consciousness, leading to new product launches, not all of which were hits.

  • McLean Deluxe: Introduced by McDonald’s as a healthier option with reduced fat, its taste didn’t match up to its counterparts, leading to its eventual discontinuation.

4. The 1990s: The Decade of Bold (and Sometimes Ill-Advised) Choices

The ’90s was a time of experimentation, bringing with it some memorable missteps.

  • Burger King’s “Table Service”: In an attempt to upscale its image, BK briefly introduced table service and popcorn as you waited. The experiment was short-lived.
  • Arch Deluxe: McDonald’s spent millions marketing this burger aimed at adults, with ingredients like peppered bacon and a special sauce. However, it failed to resonate with its target audience and was soon pulled from the menu.

5. The 2000s: Misunderstood Innovations

The new millennium saw attempts to modernize and innovate, though not always successfully.

  • BK’s “Satisfries”: Burger King’s attempt at a healthier fry option fell flat. While they boasted fewer calories, they came at a higher price point and were eventually discontinued due to lackluster sales.

6. The 2010s: Technological Trials and Social Media Slip-ups

The rise of social media and technology in the 2010s brought with it new challenges and pitfalls.

  • McDonald’s “#McDStories” Campaign: Intended to create positive buzz, this Twitter campaign quickly backfired as users shared negative experiences with the hashtag, turning it into a PR nightmare.
  • Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice”: This Facebook campaign encouraged users to unfriend ten people to get a free Whopper. It was quickly pulled after concerns about promoting negative online behavior.

7. Environment and Ethical Concerns

With growing environmental and ethical awareness, certain burger launches faced backlash.

  • Impossible Burger Controversy: While the plant-based burger was hailed as an environmental win, it faced criticism from vegan groups for animal testing related to one of its ingredients.

8. Cultural Misunderstandings

Global expansion of burger chains sometimes led to cultural missteps.

  • McDonald’s “Prosperity Burger” in Malaysia: Intended to celebrate Chinese New Year, this burger faced backlash for not being halal.

9. The 2020s: Navigating New Norms

With the decade just unfolding, burger chains have had to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and changing consumer behavior.

  • Safety Concerns: Several chains faced criticism for not adequately protecting their employees during the pandemic, leading to PR challenges.

10. Lessons from the Missteps

While these blunders might seem like setbacks, they offer valuable lessons:

  • Understanding the Audience: Many failed products were the result of not truly understanding what the consumer wanted.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Global brands need to be acutely aware of local customs, beliefs, and sentiments when launching new products.
  • Adapting to Feedback: The most successful brands are those that can quickly adapt to feedback, whether it’s pulling a failed product or addressing concerns.


The history of burger blunders serves as a testament to the challenges of the ever-evolving food industry. While the missteps are notable, they also highlight the industry’s resilience and ability to adapt, innovate, and grow. As we bite into our favorite burger, it’s interesting to reflect on its journey – the highs, the lows, and everything in between.