In the photos of the big fast-food chains, the burgers are always primed, nicely shiny, with the perfect salad leaf and a “patty” (a term for steak or its equivalent) that looks perfectly cooked. In our hands, it’s not always the same story. In some restaurants, the result is sometimes calamitous, with its vegetables not so fresh, its bread more toasted than average and its general appearance far too flat.
It is on this subject that a legal file of thirty-five pages was assembled by the court of the Eastern district of the city of New York: several chains could indeed be attacked for misleading advertising because of the notable differences regularly noted between the product in the photo and the one finally served to customers.
At Wendy’s, the world’s third-largest fast-food chain (behind Subway and McDonald’s), the beef is said to be too thin in the photos—a method that makes the burger look big, for sheer effect of scale. As for the toppings, on the contrary, they would be much more abundant on the pictures than in reality. It would apparently be worse at McDonald’s, accused of using undercooked “patities” for its photo shoots. With a very specific goal.
According to the file, unearthed by Quartz, this technique consisting in cooking the meat below the permitted level also makes it possible to pass the final result for bigger than it is (15% to 20% more than in reality). The major problem raised by consumers has less to do with aesthetics than quantity: it’s hard to accept that the promised big sandwich is much smaller when it arrives on the tray.
But the lack of cooking also makes it possible to present a “very big, plump patty, whereas fully cooked burgers tend to shrink and look less appetizing”as mentioned in the file.
Wendy’s and McDonald’s are not the only two brands singled out. In March, in a separate case, Burger King was accused of inflating the size of its burgers by 35% of their actual dimensions. Apart from fast food, other companies have also recently been accused of misleading advertising: this is the case of Strawberry Pop-Tarts which lack real strawberries, or Keebler cookies less rich in fudge than expected.
The fact remains that if trials take place regularly, explained an expert to NPR in 2021, they often end in the same way: the accused brand gets away with it without needing to change anything in its advertisements or its preparations. It is therefore better to revise your expectations downwards, or stop frequenting certain restaurant chains when you believe that you are deceiving us on the merchandise.