Why are we now keeping the menu a secret?

I’ve noticed this in the last year at a couple of fast-food places, Burger King and KFC: Their menu boards, despite having grown to many, many square feet, no longer actually list the things you can order. Instead, they solely promote the various combo meals and add-ons in hopes that everyone will order a Number Four Meal at a cost of $8.95 and 2100 calories.

Oh, they still sell the plain hamburger, or BK Stacker, or two-piece chicken & biscuit—but only if you know enough to ask about it and even then they’ll have to find the manager to figure out how much it costs. I don’t guess I think it should be illegal—but there’s something fundamentally wrong about a hamburger place not having the hamburger on the menu board.

Just water to drink? Sir, we have water bottles. Those are $1.59 . . .

I’ll take a look if I get to a BK soon (We don’t eat KFC since we started going to Popeye’s) but I don’t recall that from the last time I was there.

Ever been asked “Would you like fries with that?”?

The profit for those places is in the drinks and fries (ever wonder why simply everybody has fries?) - the last thing they want is for you to buy a piece of meat “to go” - no fries, no beverage. They will likely lose money on that transaction.

So they push the combos - the McDonalds I see have thse large displays of combo meals, with a subscript: Sandwich only $3.59. They still list the beverages so you don’t have to guess what flavors of water they sell.

Have the “Dollar Menus” also disappeared?

Actually I’ve noticed (at McDonalds) that in some cases the combo meal is cheaper than ordering just a hamburger and fries.

I’ve noticed this too - or if it’s not cheaper directly, it’s something like the hamburger on its own is $6.95 but with a soft drink and fries its $7.45 so your brain says “You’d have to be an idiot not spend a measly 50c because then you get way more than 50c worth of drink and fries! Especially because the burger isn’t worth $6.95 on its own, either.”

While there is some truth to them making profit there’s also the issue of choice overwhelming the customer.

Fast food has to be fast, especially at peak times. Forty years ago fast food places had limited menus, and it didn’t take a customer long to identify the things they wanted to eat. Today fast food places, or most of them, have three or four times as many thins to eat. If a customer is presented with a vast array of options they have to read through they’ll take longer to decide what to order, which slows everything down. Speed is crazy important. That’s why so many fast food places now have cash registers that automatically dispense the correct change. It’s not, as many people believe, because the McDonald’s clerk is too dumb to add up coins that come to 65 cents. It’s because it saves time to dispense the coins rather than someone having to retrieve them individually.

By presenting the customer with a more limited number of very visible, conspicuous options, you speed up their decision making and steer them towards simpler, predictable orders. Give them 6-10 of the most common combos and they’ll order quick and it’s easier on your employees.

Funny this thread came up today because I was just thinking about this yesterday at Tim Horton’s. As a vegetarian, I always order their “Garden Sandwich” for lunch. It is not listed on the menu board. I only know about it because I’ve been ordering it for years. Other vegetarians might not know that this option exists (and is cheaper than the few vegetarian options that ARE on the board.)

My local BK has the large combo signs over the counter, and a full menu over by the wall (so you have to look at it before getting in line). Seems a reasonable compromise.

The local BK replaced their menu boards with flat screen monitors a while back. A group of small monitors on the right display the combos, another group of small monitors on the left display everything else, and a big monitor in the center has whatever limited time product is currently on offer and anything else they’re pushing on slideshow.

At McD’s, it’s the “dollar menu and more” now. For a dollar…or more!

Well, it’s not only because of that. Many of the customers can’t count that high either. :stuck_out_tongue:

I found myself in a McDs recently for the first time in ages. Ordered two items off the ‘Dollar menu’ without paying attention and the total was $2.68. Whaaaa? Lots of different prices there on the board it turns out, apparently McD’s only promise is that you are not going to find anything cheaper than a dollar there.

I noticed that a buffalo ranch chicken sandwich is $1.00 while A BACON buffalo ranch chicken sandwich is $2.00. The bacon costs the same as the rest of the sandwich.

The weirdest one for me is KFC. Maybe it’s because I rarely go there but every time I come out of the line I’m confused about what I just ordered.

They list number of pieces and number of sides but don’t tell you what pieces you are getting and don’t have a list of the sides.

If I get a 4 piece, can I get 4 breasts? Do I have to take a wing? If I don’t want a wing do I pay more? I know you have potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, and I just learned about mac and cheese, what other sides do you have and how much do I pay if I want a bigger portion?

I’m sure this isn’t a big deal to a regular, but it seems odd to someone who only goes there one every couple of years.

Sounds like they need a special annotated menu for their high maintenance customers. Or maybe some sort of concierge to guide you through the ordering process.

Similarly when you’re paying. I can’t remember when the last time was that I saw the person in the drive-thru window at MickeyD’s actually count the part of my payment that was in change. They just take it and wave me on to the pickup window. The other day, our order came to $4.68, and $1.68 of that was in change. The clerk just took it and waved us on. He certainly didn’t have time to do more than say to himself, “looks like it’s in the ballpark.” Maybe they dump it into a machine that counts it for them for all I know.

Or maybe they could just write their menu on a sign and hang it on the wall.

I was mainly referring to all the questions about substitutions, which I’ve never seen addressed on a restaurant menu unless it has the word “NO” in front of it.

There are plenty of high-end restaurants that do not exhaustively list the things you can order, either. They give you a few combinations to choose from, which makes their lives easier and profits higher. But if you order off-menu, they will often fulfill your request.

Many fast food chains are in a major bind. They have very price-conscious customers, so removing old inexpensive items will result in a lot of ill will. But they really don’t want to have new customers order the budget items, so they make them mostly secret.

On what planet is a McDonald’s hamburger $6.95?

Seems like the price is closer to $1.

He probably means Australian dollars, which makes it a mere $6.24 US!