I ate a Wendy’s restaurant today, and I couldn’t help but wonder one of those things that I always wonder when I eat there. Why are the hamburger patties that Wendy’s uses square? Some theories…
They appear to be cut with a table saw rather than a cookie cutter, thusly are more attractive to craftsmen.
The restaurant had trouble with meat that fell on the floor rolling away and so made the patties square to avoid further trouble.
The patties aren’t hamburger at all but rather some mystery meat and are cut this way at the plant to avoid confusion on the part of the workers.
It’s all a psychological trick to make people remember Wendy’s more often.
What’s your guess?
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my guess would be shipping costs. If they are square, you can fit more meat into each box since there are no funny curvy open spaces between the patties. That means the boxes can be smaller allowing more boxes per truck (and more boxes per freezer shelf at the restaurant).
(It could make production simpler, as well:
if you could simply set up a long run of ground beef (work with me here) that was simply crimped as it was fed into boxes rather than having separate operations to punch out a pattie, then stack it neatly on waked paper, then align the patties in a box.)
I don’t know if anyone else remembers the Wendy’s “Give a little nibble” ad campaign back in, oh, the 80’s or so. The idea was you could (after having bought the burger, of course!) nibble at a bit of the corner of a patty, and thus assure yourself that Wendy’s used high-quality beef that was tasty even without the various condiments. I tried it, and it was indeed tasty, but since McDonald’s and Burger King don’t have conveniently nibbleable corners, I never really made a comparison…
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That is disturbing because I worked at Wendy’s once and unlike McD’s, they have no pre-set grill timer to time how long the meat is cooked. They cook a patty down until it is the width of the spatula. That’s how they know it’s done. There are actually signs in the kitchens that point this out. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the burgers are sometimes undercooked, rather they are probably overcooked. They (at least the one I worked at) do not have any time of meat storage areas (bigger/busier stores might) for the cooked meat so once it is done, they move it to the less hot part of the grill to keep it warm until they put it on a bun. “Fresh made when you order”–I think not.
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Donovan is on the right track. Having worked at Wendy’s myself in my youth, I recall that we were given two explanations for why the patties are square:
More efficient use of grill space.
Preservation of heat (there’s no empty space for heat to radiate away.
In those days, at least, Wendy’s would make their own patties – we would receive shipments of ground beef and run them through a machine that made them into square patties.
I suspect that a third reason is psychological: A square patty hanging off a bun looks larger than an identical-by-weight round patty on a round bun. Thus Wendy’s would appear to provide more “beef for the buck.”
All the beef came in milk crate packaging, all ground. It was put into the patty machine, which not only made them square, but grained them so that when they cooked, they shrunk up into a rectangular shape.
Wendy’s used to have juicy burgers. But I suppose complaints about undercooking made them cook them to the dry dessicated things they are now.
There’s always patties being cooked, so the sandwiches are hot off the grill. The grillman tries to gauge demand for burgers. But oftentimes there are excess patties that are cooked beyond servability. What happens to them? They’re put aside in a refridgerated pan. The next day, their boiled, strained, chopped up, then added to beans and flavoring to make Wendy’s Chili.
It makes sense that square burgers can be packaged more efficiently, space-wise. So why do they use round buns? White Castle puts square burgers on square buns. Square burgers on round buns seems a trifle un-geometric.
Dave Feldman answered this very question in one of his books (of course, I forget which one). I believe it was less as a “better utilization of grill space” (seriously, you cant really put more burgers on a grill just by cutting off the square corners), and more to do with marketing. Wendy’s is only about 30 years old, and when they started out, McDonald’s (and perhaps BK) were already dominating. In order to stand out, they wanted people to think of their burgers as a better value; when you get a McD’s burger, its completely covered by the accompanying bun, but with a Wendy’s burger you have the corners overlapping. The customer feels like he’s getting way more bang for the buck. Also, again on the marketing side, the square burgers obviously offered a “novelty”, although they weren’t a new idea (White Castle has square burgers, as does Louis’ Lunch, one of the contenders for the creator of the hamburger).
It’s a different chain. Krystal’s is a Chattanooga-based company. You’re right, though, it is essentially the southern take on White Castle. I looked up the company web sites once out of curiosity. White Castle came first and Krystal, I guess, was a southern knockoff.