How Your Fast-Food Mash-Up Gets Made

The product all executives hope for.
The product all executives hope for. Photo: Taco Bell/Doritos

The massive sales of Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos tacos have made it the envy of fast-food executives around the world — hence the current glut of mediocre mash-up foods on the market (except you, poutine burger, you big, beautiful bastard). But, as it turns out, actually making a successful gut buster requires all sorts of laborious R&D.;

As part of Wired’s food issue (the same issue that gave us Dave Chang’s take on MSG), the magazine looks at the rise of what it calls stunt foods, the now-familiar fast-food mash-ups like waffle tacos or the KFC Double Down.

Fast-food companies love them because they can potentially blow up on social media, which is cheaper — and can be far more effective — than traditional advertising. But even a seemingly surefire dumb-food idea can hit research-and-development snags. Consider the sad tale of Baskin-Robbins’s Waffle Chip Dippers, wherein the company envisioned “chips made from brownies to sit alongside crispy waffles in a bowl of ice cream.”

BR’s R&D; had to figure out how to make brownie chips and waffle crisps cook in the same amount of time, in a way that any employee could figure out. Then …

They had to figure out how to cut the waffle and brownie discs into “chips” during the 10- to 15-second window before they become too crisp to do anything with. After trying devices like a two-handled knife, they opted for a pizza wheel because it was fast and easy and could be used with one hand. A straightforward and low tech solution, for sure, but it meant that with the launch of Waffle Chip Dippers, Baskin-Robbins had to outfit all its ice cream shops with pizza wheels and paper templates to show workers how to cut the chips.

In the end, it was all too much, sales weren’t strong enough, and the product was discontinued before it ever really took off. And now we’ll never know what brownie chips taste like.

Stunt Foods [Wired]
Earlier: The Backstory of Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Is Both Cheesy and Strange
Related: Have We Entered an Umami Renaissance?

How Your Fast-Food Mash-Up Gets Made