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The Rise and Fall of Fast Food

I'm 40 years old and it seems to me that fast food has dropped in quality so dramatically over the years. Remember when you'd see the commercial for Burger King or McDonald's and the burgers looked so pretty? Then you'd go and open that cardboard box and it would look just like the commercial. Nowadays, you open the wrapper and it's a dehydrated burger with barely any toppings. If there are toppings they are hidden under the bun. The burgers barely make the egdes and those too have lost their luster. I never remember the grey burger as a child....now they all are.

Here are, IMO, the five chains that have fallen the furthest (in order).

1. McDonald's - the burgers are awful, the fries are like salt licks and I won't even mention nuggets.
2. Wendy's - everyone knows that when Dave Thomas died, the chain went downhill.
3. Subway - now it was never good, but compared to what it was before Jared-mania it was great
4. Taco Bell - it used to be somewhat edible...now it's cat food in a tortilla.
5. Pizza Hut - don't believe the add campaign...it's worse than it ever was.

I think the only chain from my childhood that has come even close to maintaining it's level of decency is Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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  1. I don't think that what you get will ever look like what you see in their 'retouched' pictures. I never had any great expectations from any fast food place. I do agree that Wendy's has gone downhill and KFC is ok.
    Is it possible that your tastes have changed or matured since what you remember from childhood?

    2 Replies
    1. re: mucho gordo

      The buds definitely have. I can not stomach a Big Mac anymore. it's nauseating.

      1. re: jhopp217

        Big macs have the egg sauce on them, right?
        Only one place I've found does that damn sauce right... Irwin Pa.

    2. I don't remember the actual food ever looking like the commercials. My rule for fast food has always been, "Never look under the bun."

      1. I'm guessing it's a combination of nostalgia and memory loss. If anything the ingredients have improved over the years (e.g. McNuggets are now white meat only), but there's no question that tastes change as you get older. Suggesting that fast food "used to be better" leads me to suspect that you weren't putting all that much thought into food as a 10-year-old (and neither did I).

        15 Replies
        1. re: ferret

          On the contrary. I knew it was crap. I ate gourmet type meals every night for dinner. A Whopper or something similar was once a week treat. I never once thought it compared to a homemade burger, but the novelty was pretty good. I still prefer a Whopper now and again to a real burger.

          1. re: ferret

            jhopp217, I have a couple of issues with your post.

            1) In a non-McDonald's context, "all white meat chicken" is rarely a promise of something flavorful and delicious. White meat is generally dry (when improperly cooked, which it often is) and flavorless. I really don't understand America's fascination with white chicken meat. A well cooked thigh (hell, even a poorly cooked thigh!) is so much more juicy and flavorful.

            2) Even if McDonald's promise of "all white meat" McNuggets is true, and that this convinces America they're ingesting something of higher quality, then we're talking about *mechanically separated white meat*. I'd say once the white meat scraps are extruded through this process, "all white meat" is more of a marketing tool than any realistic approximation of the quality of the food. I mean, take a look at the artle below. Wouldn't you agree that even if this stuff is "all white meat" that it really doesn't matter anymore?

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10...

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              This myth has been refuted multiple times on Chowhound and elsewhere. From the Snopes.com article:

              "Although McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are typically offered as an example of a popular MSP-based food, since 2003 that product has been made with all white meat rather than MSP."

              http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/ms...

              Even prior to 2003 the McNuggets did not contain Mechanically Separated Poultry, they were a 50/50 mix of dark and white meat. Yes, of course they contain binders and preservatives, but they are basically chunks of meat bound together and portioned into bite size pieces. Nothing at all like the pink goo.

              The myth appears to have been started by movie Super Size Me which incorrectly stated that the McNuggets were made from MSP.

              1. re: kmcarr

                OK, let's assume that McDonald's is telling the truth that they do not use the MSP process to make their McNuggets, and that they truly are "made with all white meat".

                Do you think they're making them with ground chicken like you can purchase at your local poulterer?

                Do you think they're cutting up chicken breasts with cookie cutters into fun shapes?

                Or do you think they're extruding white meat chicken into a mechanically processed paste to form into fun McNugget shapes?

                Perhaps McD's is not explicitly engaging in the MSP process of mechanically stripping scraps of meat from chicken breast bone, but do you think the final product that makes up a McNugget is really that different from the paste in that photo? I think it's doubtful.

                It's much more likely that McDonalds is engaging in a PR campaign to make their foods seem safer and more wholesome. "Made with all white meat" and "No MSP" conjures up images of wholesome food, not meat paste formed into fun nugget shapes. And I'm sure that their lawyers are following the letter of the law in the claims that they make. They make claims that come right up to the edge of truthfulness, and then our own imaginations fill in the blanks for the McDonald's corporation. We're selling the stuff to ourselves.

                Anyway, I do find the debunking of the McNuggets/MSP claim to be splitting hairs. And mind you, I'm not anti-hot dogs or anti-sausages. However, I do find it insulting when a company attaches claims of wholesomeness to products with such obviously dubious origins.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  IMHO what differentiates the 'paste' from nuggets is the nuggets have the texture of actual chicken chunks.

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I don't get why you find it difficult to believe that McDonald's is being forthright about their ingredients. If you look at their website a portion of McNuggets weighs in at less than 2.5 ounces. Not impossible to believe that they can sell 2.5 ounce of white meat chicken as a portion and turn a very tidy profit.

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      "OK, let's assume that McDonald's is telling the truth that they do not use the MSP process to make their McNuggets, and that they truly are "made with all white meat"

                      No need to assume, it's stated clearly on the ingredient list. By law, if they used MSP in the McNuggets they would be required to list it on the ingredient list. Also by law if they state that they use only white meat chicken this simply means that the chicken used in the product does not contain any dark meat.
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      "Do you think they're making them with ground chicken like you can purchase at your local poulterer?"

                      Since I don't live in Elizabethan England I don't have a local poulterer. ;-). But it is likely that the packaged ground chicken from large national producers (e.g. Tyson's or Perdue) are similar in source to the McNuggets.
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                      "Do you think they're cutting up chicken breasts with cookie cutters into fun shapes? "

                      No, I don't, and I never made any such claim. It is most likely that scraps and trim are used which are minced to even size and then formed into the nugget shape. This is "full product utilization" but still only involves meat, either trim left over from preparing portioned cuts or scraped off the carcass. This is not the same as MSP where the entire carcass is shoved through a press, the bones are ground and the meat portion extruded through a sieve.

                  2. re: Mr Taster

                    Mr. Taster,

                    Ferret said that, not I

                  3. re: ferret

                    How exactly is "White meat only" an improvement?? IMHO the single best piece of meat on poultry is the thigh and it's aint white meat.

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      The single best piece of meat on poultry is the Pope's Nose!

                      1. re: Davwud

                        It's a market perception (they aren't selling to kids, they're selling to moms and they're mostly selling to moms who want to pretend that they're feeding their kids a good alternative to home prepared meals) and their attempt to compete with the "chicken tenders" that KFC and others offer.

                        1. re: ferret

                          You're definitely right about that. They shape them like feet for the kids, but the "white meat" is a sell to moms and dads who are too lazy to bread a damn cutlet.

                          1. re: ferret

                            i know of someone who wouldn't serve any of the dark meat from the thanksgiving turkey until the meat had been removed from the bird and cooked for an extra 20 minutes or so. It was moist, slightly pink, and therefore unfit for human consumption. People who eat only "white meat" aren't comfortable with and/or don't like the appearance of dark meat poultry. Maybe its not cooked, maybe its spoiled, maybe its bruised, maybe.... etc.

                            (and yes, that person believes poultry should be dried out if it is cooked properly, and doesn't know why people like to eat it)

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Your point is that it's somehow detrimental though, which it really isn't. Nobody's fooling themselves when they eat fast food - it's a compromise based on convenience. So offering an incremental increase in quality - while ultimately not turning "mediocre" into "spectacular" - shouldn't be viewed with cynicism.

                        2. I remember years and years ago when Wendy's hambergers would hang over the edge of the bun. That was my favorite part to eat first. To me, Wendy's is the chain that has changed so dramatically for the worse.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: christy1122

                            wendy's used to be close to restaurant level. The moment Dave Thomas died they changed everything and it became well below sub par food. I still have a friend who believes the chili is the best food in the world. We obviously disagree on more than Wendy's

                            1. re: jhopp217

                              Funny thing is I do like the Chili but I will not go there anymore because the burgers are so disappointing...

                            2. re: christy1122

                              That's exactly the way I remember the burgers. They were juicier then, too.

                            3. Everything tastes cruddy now because of food nazi's looting the good way to cook things...with fat!!

                              1 Reply