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People may not think of this, but there is a science to finding the right balance between the main ingredient (usually some kind of meat) and the toppings. I call that the meat-to-condiment radio and in my estimation, the ideal ratio is as close to 1:1 as possible.

Take, for example, the perfectly balanced taste of the Big Mac. On the meat side, you have two all beef patties. On the condiment side you have special sauce, lettuce, cheese, ... well, you know how it goes. But what some people complain about on the Big Mac, that the meat patties are scrawny, is exactly the reason the sandwich tastes so good. If the meat were thicker, say, two quarter pound patties, then the meat-to-condiment ratio would be almost 2:1. Way off. Remember when McDonald's had the Double Big Mac and the Big Mac Jr.? According to Wikipedia, you can still find these at some U.S. locations. But why didn't they succeed nationwide? Because of a 2:1 or 1:2 ratio!


Photo courtesy of McDonald's

Ok, maybe this is all unscientific, but if science is largely observation, this is science of a sort. I challenge you to put together any list of popular fast food items (nationwide menu, not a local fad) that successfully strays from a 1:1 ratio. I suspect that'd be a short list. Staying with McDonald's for a second longer, even the Quarter Pounder with Cheese keeps the ratio intact with two slices of cheese, a few pickles, and generous squirts of ketchup, mustard and onions. Simply a scaled up version of the classic cheeseburger. (Yes, there is a Double Quarter Pounder - maybe that goes on the exception list.)

About the closest thing I can think of that has meat and toppings out of balance is upgrading a regular hot dog to a JUMBO all beef version. Typically I avoid this, because it usually arrives on the same bun with the same toppings, throwing the ratio all out of whack.

In the world of Mexican food, things aren't any different. The meat-to-condiment ratio is quite evenly balanced in offerings from Taco Bell, Del Taco, Chipotle, and the like. Even meatless items like a Taco Bell Bean Burrito balances out the beans with red sauce, cheese and onions in the right proportions.

 

In a recent article, I wondered whether or not a Fresco-style Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco would be the same as a (cheaper) Fresco-style Grilled Chicken Taco. Well, fast food geeks like me can wonder no more because the other day I ordered both and put them head to head.

taco bell chicken tacos

On the outside, they both look the same. Same size tortilla, same weight and feel. But inside, the more expensive Ranchero taco had better looking strips of what appeared to be white chicken breast, with little grill marks for that tasteful look. I apologize for the poor quality of my cell phone pics!

Inside the less expensive Grilled Chicken Taco were a few lumpy blobs of chicken. It was less clear whether or not this was also breast meat but it was obvious that the look and quantity were lower than in the Ranchero sibling.

Aside from the apparent quality of the meat, the two tacos were in fact identical. They both had equal portions of Freso salsa (pico de gallo) and lettuce. Remember, Freso-style means no cheese so what you see in the pic is what you get.

 

This door hanger arrived on my front door last week. I am sure it doesn't look like much here online, but at 16 inches long, full color, rigid cardstock, this is one impressive ad for bacon.

wendys bacon door hanger

I have to say, it's working. And I am not an expert in different types of bacon and don't really know whether to be impressed by "Applewood Smoked" bacon. What does that even mean? i've seen the term popping up all over, including in non-fast food burger menus at Ruby Tuesday and the like. Is this a truly high-end bacon worthy of a high end ad campaign, or a fancy but meaningless term like "Corinthian Leather?"

Maybe it's most effective because the high quality extreme closeup photography is so good you can almost hear the bacon sizzle.

But wait, there's more. Two coupons on the bottom back of the card:

+ One for a free Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit Sandwich with drink purchase
+ One for a Bacon Mornin' Melt Panini with drink purchase

Oh Wendy's. You had me at bacon.

 

taco bell taco comparison

Taco Bell recently came out with a Grilled Chicken Soft Taco (and a similar burrito) on their Why Pay More menu. As I tried it I thought, this seems just like the Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco, only without the sauce. And about a dollar cheaper. So I went on the handy Taco Bell Nutrition Calculator and discovered that the difference depends on how you compare, and order, the two tacos.

The chart below is the result page from the calculator (I cleared out the non-essential buttons and labels). As you can see in the first two rows the Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco is about 35% bigger. Note, that's weight, and not necessarily all chicken. From what I could tell, they both use the same tortilla. The Grilled Chicken Taco has 70 fewer calories, 6 fewer grams of fat and about 200mg less sodium. I would suspect that also has to do with the lack of sauce. That got me thinking, what would happen if we compared them both without cheese and sauce?

Fresco Style is what Taco Bell calls substituting cheese and sauce with pico de gallo ("Fiesta Salsa"). As you can see from the last two rows in the chart above, the answer seems to be that both tacos get strikingly similar. The Grilled is still bigger, at least partly because it had Fiesta Salsa to begin with. But the calories and fat slide down to equal or almost equal, and the Grilled Taco is within only 80mg striking distance of the Ranchero Taco in terms of sodium. For fast food lovers with a healthier bent, there doesn't seem to be much reason to spend about a dollar extra for the Ranchero Fresco when the Grilled Fresco will get you essentially the same taco experience.

Now you must, if you'll pardon the expression, take all this with a grain of salt. After all, these measurements are in ideal conditions with pre-measured portions in a controlled test kitchen. In the real world of fast food taco assembly, there could end up being very little difference between the feel of these two tacos ordered side by side. Still, adding sub-dollar chicken items is a welcome move and Taco Bell should be commended. It almost makes up for jacking up the price of my beloved Beef Combo burrito. Almost.

 

 

This week, McDonald's officially rolls out their premium "espresso-based beverages" that have been pilot testing for a number of weeks around the country. My media source tells me the selection includes "Cappuccinos, Lattes, Mochas, Iced Lattes and Iced Mochas, as well as hot and iced Premium Roast brewed coffees and hot chocolate."

I am not a coffee drinker, so someone will have to let me know how these are and how the compare to beverages from that other fancy coffee place. meanwhile, McDonald's is running an online contest and sweepstakes at www.mcdonalds.com/mccafe for a chance to win a $50,000 Visa Gift card and other prizes. So check it out.

 

 

When Carl's Jr. rolled out their Six Dollar Burgers in the mid '90's they marketed them as the same burger that would cost you about $6 at a sit down restaurant (like Chili's). And the name was catchy because these big, bountiful burgers only set you back about three bucks. But as with everything else, the price of these burgers continued to creep up toward their namesake. In fact, the new Kentucky Bourbon Burger made its debut at a $5 price point.

 

Granted, the value for what I don't deny is a quality burger has stayed consistent relative to the counterparts at Chili's, TGI Fridays, et al. But maybe it's time for Carl's to start thinking about rebranding these. Honestly, when Carl's acquired Hardees, I expected back then that the $4+ Six Dollar Burgers might take on the east coast chain's "Thickburger" moniker. But nope, still Six Dollar Burgers. Which, if we stay this course, will soon carry the same marketing punch as advertising "The Dollar Forty-Nine Fries."

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Providing fast food blogs, menus, locations and other information for over80 major chains

Since 2000, Fast Food Source has been the premier independent site dedicated to fast food lovers, offering fast food restaurant menus, and nutrition information, as well as fast food blogs, articles, forums, and fast food industry news. We offer fast food location information for over 50 cities and more than 80 fast food chains.

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