It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there for fast food chains. Brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and more all pull in major revenue every year thanks to their thousands of restaurants dotted all over the place. But they also fight each other tooth and nail for business. It can get pretty competitive when it comes to marketing themselves in pursuit of Americans’ culinary tastes and food budgets. So it should be no surprise to you to see that some of these iconic brands have done some really crazy things to set themselves apart!
In this list, you’ll read about ten wild instances of fast-food companies going above and beyond to separate themselves from their competitors. These aren’t just some wacky additions to their value menus, either. From branded hotels to international consulates (yes, really) to fast food-flavored fragrances, these stunts go to the next level. Order’s up!
10 Smells Like the Hut!
The fragrance industry is an enormous market. Today, it’s valued at billions and billions of dollars worldwide. And with its size, the number of unique fragrances available is far more diverse than one might assume. Celebrities and timeless brands alike have jumped in on the fragrance market to make big money. So why can’t fast food chains do it, too?
In 2012, Pizza Hut decided to join the fragrance craze. Their idea: create a limited-edition perfume that replicated the scent of freshly baked pizza dough. While many initially thought this was a joke, the product was, in fact, real. Sadly, it was produced only for a short time.
Pizza Hut Canada had the idea to develop the fragrance as part of a campaign to celebrate reaching 100,000 followers on Facebook. Just 110 bottles were created in the stunt. And they weren’t even sold; they were merely given away to lucky fans as a promotional gift.
Nowadays, if you wish to acquire a bottle of this unique scent, your only hope is to search online marketplaces like eBay. The fragrance is no longer available in stores and likely won’t be made again. But there is still hope, pizza fans! There are other pizza-scented fragrances available in the marketplace today. You know, just in case you ever want to smell like Pizza Hut for your next date.
9 I Do… Want Fries with That
Food and romance just seem to go together. It’s no wonder that going out for dinner on a date is such a common practice. Sharing a meal with someone creates an intimate experience that can set the stage for a meaningful connection. However, not all food establishments are created equal when it comes to romantic dining. Fast food is not really an ideal choice for a first date! But it can be an unexpectedly charming destination for couples in long-term relationships.
In recent years, popular fast-food chains have taken notice of the potential for romantic occasions like that. Some have even created special offerings to cater to this demographic. For example, in 2017, Dominos Pizza launched a wedding registry that allowed couples to request pizza for their big day. The registry offered a variety of pizza-themed options, such as different types of pizza and gift cards in varying cash amounts.
Then, McDonald’s took things to the next level. In the company’s Hong Kong eateries, managers have begun to recognize the appeal of hosting weddings at their restaurants. The Asia-based franchises in the chain now offer customized wedding packages of all kinds. They range from basic balloon decorations to a deluxe package that includes personalized invitations and gifts for up to 50 guests. Couples can even reserve the restaurant for two hours, complete with an audio setup and a wedding DJ!
While it may seem unconventional, fast food chains are clearly starting to recognize the unique appeal of food-centric romance. Who knows—maybe a Big Mac and fries could be the best way to celebrate your next anniversary.
8 Crypto King
Cryptocurrency has become a very popular topic in recent years. The value of Bitcoin has soared in the last decade, and NFTs have gained popularity (and plenty of controversy) in the world of Blockchain. While many companies have been slow to adopt cryptocurrencies, Burger King jumped in early. In 2017, the burger joint demonstrated its innovative spirit by launching its own digital currency called WhopperCoin.
The idea behind WhopperCoin was simple: Russian customers would receive one WhopperCoin for every ruble spent at the restaurant. However, it was worth noting that it would take 1,700 WhopperCoins to obtain a Whopper. So it wasn’t cheap! And the virtual currency was hosted on the Waves blockchain, distinguishing it from other new money movers like Bitcoin and Dogecoin.
Despite its unique features, WhopperCoin failed to gain traction in the world of cryptocurrency. By the end of 2018, one WhopperCoin was worth a mere $0.002 US. Unfortunately, its value continued to decline over the years. Russian consumers didn’t really take to it, and Burger King’s new-money venture mostly failed. They’ve tried to start other crypto moves elsewhere, though! Perhaps there is some hope for the burger joint yet.
Regardless, the company’s foray into the world of cryptocurrency was notable. While it may not have been successful, it did demonstrate BK’s willingness to embrace new technology. And with the rise of digital currencies, perhaps other fast food chains will soon follow suit. Who knows—maybe we’ll even be writing about fast-food cryptocurrency millionaires one day soon!
7 KFC, the Movie
The relationship between fast food and Hollywood is an interesting one. It has existed for a long time, of course. Both industries have influenced each other in different ways over the years. In many instances, a movie will partner with a fast food chain to run cross-promotions for publicity. Sometimes, fast food chains are even featured in films.
One famous example of this is the ’80s movie Mac and Me, which heavily featured McDonald’s throughout the film. It was so heavily promoted by the fast-food giant that it seemed like a commercial for them.
Today, fast food chains have become more clever with their advertising. Of course, many use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to get their message across. However, KFC recently took things to a whole new level with this. In 2020, they produced a Lifetime movie about their founder, Colonel Sanders. The movie starred Saved by the Bell actor Mario Lopez, and even though it was only 15 minutes long, it went far above and beyond a typical brand promotion.
Surprisingly, it even received a fresh rating of over 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. So the majority of critics actually enjoyed the short film! And with that, A Recipe For Seduction, as it was called, joined the pantheon of great flicks like Citizen Kane and The Godfather. Okay, maybe the KFC movie wasn’t quite on that level. But the film provided more enjoyment for audiences than most people probably ever expected!
6 Yo Quiero Taco Hotel!
Many people may ridicule Taco Bell, but it remains an incredibly tasty—and cost-effective—fast food option. The popular restaurant has managed to keep its edge when it comes to Mexican-style cuisine for years now. Plus, it’s one of the few companies that is willing to take risks with its menu items. Think of their burritos made with Pop Rocks or tacos with fried chicken “shells.” However, the restaurant chain’s creativity does not stop there.
In 2019, Taco Bell introduced a pop-up hotel in Palm Springs, California. The hotel was entirely themed around the restaurant chain. That means it came complete with taco-shaped decor and Taco Bell-Hops. The resort’s 70 rooms were fully booked within two minutes. Then, when guests arrived, they enjoyed mini-fridges stocked with Taco Bell snacks. Guests could also enjoy unique experiences such as getting their hair braided with cinnamon twists or swimming up to the bar for a Baja Blast cocktail.
Surprisingly, the food served at the hotel was not quite typical Taco Bell. Instead, it was a gourmet spin on menu items made popular by the fast food chain. Pillowcases were even designed to resemble giant hot sauce packets, adding to the quirky atmosphere. So the next time you scoff at Taco Bell’s food, or criticize its unconventional creations and ventures, remember this crazy stunt. The chain is not afraid to take risks and offer a unique experience to its most dedicated fans!
5 Burger Morgue
The fast food industry has proven to be helpful in unexpected ways across America. That even means providing assistance during times of crisis. One notable example of this occurred in Miami during the 1980s. During that tumultuous decade, the city was in the midst of a violent drug war.
Soon, South Beach became known as one of the most violent drug capitals of the world. Drug lords were in a deadly competition there, and because of it, the city saw a staggering number of murders. In 1980 alone, 573 murders occurred, and in 1981, there were 621 more. Those numbers are unheard of today—but it was a reality that Miami officials had to fight back then.
Soon enough, the high number of homicides overwhelmed the Miami-Dade morgue. It struggled terribly to keep up with the influx of bodies. To address the issue, the morgue turned to Burger King for help. The fast food chain provided a big refrigerated truck in which to store bodies. The morgue began renting it for $800 per month. The truck was used to store bodies until 1988, in fact. And its cold storage capabilities proved crucial in ensuring that the city’s dead were properly handled and investigated.
The circumstances that led to Burger King’s involvement were grim, of course. But the company’s willingness to assist Miami in that tough time demonstrates the value of some of these major fast food firms’ infrastructure. In times of crisis, these assets can be repurposed to help those in need and provide essential services. Let’s just hope we don’t have to turn to Burger King to help local morgues again anytime soon…
The PC gaming industry has become a lucrative market worth billions of dollars. Within it, console gaming holds a significant share of that wealth. Many tech businesses may find it beneficial to tap into this market, of course. But for those not traditionally associated with gaming, it may seem like an unconventional move.
Unless you’re KFC! In 2020, the fried chicken joint launched the KFConsole. That was the name of their new PC gaming system. And yes, it closely resembled a bucket of chicken—and even doubled as a chicken warmer.
Despite its unique design, the KFConsole was immediately no joke as far as technical specifications. It boasted an Intel Nuc 9 and an Asus-powered GPU. It also housed two Seagate BarraCuda 1TB SSDs with PCIe NVMe speeds that are six times faster than normal. That made it a highly capable unit for 4K gaming! (And, of course, warming chicken.)
Although the price of the KFConsole was not disclosed at its release, based on its impressive tech features alone, it’ll cost a pretty penny. There’s just one problem with it: By 2023, it hadn’t actually hit the market yet. So, for now, it seems like this could be just a marketing gimmick. Sorry, gamers! But if you’re like us, just thinking about it probably has your mouth watering for some chicken, though.
And the gimmick may be working. The KFConsole quickly garnered attention and buzz in the gaming community. Its unique design and impressive technical capabilities are noteworthy. And while it remains to be seen if the KFConsole will become a popular addition to the gaming market, it is clear KFC is not afraid to think outside the bucket (er, box) when promoting its brand.
3 Ronald McDonald, Consul General
With thousands of locations worldwide, McDonald’s is a well-known fast-food chain recognized for its iconic golden arches. And the company’s recognition recently allowed it to extend assistance to American citizens in need abroad.
Beginning in 2019 in Austria, American citizens who require aid can visit the nearest McDonald’s branch for consular assistance. Yes, really: McDonald’s has become a consulate! Beginning that year, instead of seeking the U.S. embassy in Austria, American citizens were able to request help from McDonald’s staff.
The staff members have been trained to assist Americans with contacting the embassy and obtaining aid. That includes reporting a lost or stolen passport or receiving travel assistance. For more serious concerns, the staff will even coordinate with the embassy to address the issue.
We should tell you, though: while McDonald’s may offer consular assistance to American citizens, the restaurants are still considered part of Austrian soil. Therefore, American visitors cannot seek refuge in the Playplace area to escape crimes or legal matters. Interpol and Austrian law enforcement agencies still hold sway. But if you need some travel help, why not do it as you stuff your face with a McChicken or a Big Mac?
2 Chicken-Covered Potholes
Dealing with potholes on roads is an issue to which almost everyone can relate. It is frustrating to encounter a bumpy road with multiple potholes. They damage vehicles and cause discomfort to passengers. They are never not frustrating! And it gets even worse when, in some cases, cities ignore these road problems for years. In time, it leads to a deteriorating reputation for the city.
The damaged and unsightly appearance of its streets leaves residents dismayed. What are their tax dollars being used for, after all? Well, KFC is here to fix all that! In 2009, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, received a unique solution to its pothole problem. The world-famous fried chicken joint offered to fix 350 potholes in the city at $3,000 a pop. The only condition was that each pothole had to be branded with a chalk stencil that read “refreshed by KFC.” Seems simple enough, right?
Interestingly, the restaurant chain did not initially offer to fix the potholes. Instead, they approached the city hall to offer the money for a good cause around town. The city chose to use the money to fix the potholes while adding the stencil as an in-kind payment. The partnership came together, the people got a problem addressed by their locally based company, and driving around town suddenly became a little bit smoother.
The branded potholes served as a clever marketing tactic for KFC, too, as the stencil drew attention to the company’s contribution to the community. It also gave drivers an easier ride, which brought a welcome relief to many. Can’t hate the end result here as far as fast food marketing stunts are concerned!
1 Life-Saving Delivery
This last one isn’t a stunt pulled by a fast food brand. Instead, it’s an amazing instance of quick thinking by employees and customers. In 2015, Pizza Hut employees in Florida proved that fast food workers can do more than just provide quick meals. They became heroes when they helped save the lives of a family in the city of Avon Park.
Cheryl Treadway was a regular customer at her local Pizza Hut. But one night, she and her children were being held hostage by her boyfriend, Ethan Nickerson. Nickerson had a large knife, and he threatened to kill them if they tried to leave. Horrified, Treadway knew she needed help fast.
Amazingly, she managed to convince Nickerson to let her use her phone to order some food through the Pizza Hut app. In the comments section, she made a request for the restaurant to call 911 and help her family. Luckily, the staff at Pizza Hut recognized Treadway as a regular customer. They took her request seriously and immediately contacted the local police.
Cops took it seriously, too, and arrived just in time to arrest Nickerson. They were able to rescue Treadway and her children before any harm was done. Thank goodness for those observant Pizza Hut employees—and for Treadway’s quick thinking to save her family!