Why Do Fast Food Restaurants Break Hearts By Removing Fan-Favorites?

It all happened one miserable winter day after enduring an already crappy 2020: My dog ran away and my job was eliminated due to Covid, all while I was already going through a breakup. I felt frustrated, humiliated, and heartbroken. Then, I heard Gloria Gaynor singing "I Will Survive," and decided to be grateful for the positive things in my life — which included the Mexican Pizza at Taco Bell. Hallelujah. So I dragged myself to the drive-thru, only to suffer another blow: Corporate had removed Mexican Pizza from the menu. Two and a half years later, I still don't have a dog, a job, or a boyfriend, but at least the Mexican Pizza is back at Taco Bell.

During that excruciating period between the departure and return of Mexican Pizza, did Taco Bell ever stop to consider what I would do without the divine assemblage of seasoned meat, refried beans, a double-decker tortilla crust, shredded cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses, and a sprinkling of diced tomatoes? Especially when the urge strikes at 2 a.m.? TB, you challenged me to think outside the bun. Please continue to think outside the taco shell.

My appeal is not only aimed at Taco Bell — I'm also looking at you, McDonald's, Arby's, and other QSRs (quick service restaurants). The comings and goings (and comings again) of TB's Mexican Pizza epitomize how fast-food companies break hearts, over and over again. The power-wielding execs toy with me and I'm mad about it. Enough!

Some of us whine and some of us fight

When a menu item has left a gaping hole in my heart, I'll whine to the poor kid behind the counter, to the manager, to my dining companion: "Why? Whhhyyy? How could they take away something that made me so happy?" Eventually, I'll (momentarily) get a grip, order something else, take a bite, then complain about how it's just not the same.

My favorites, such as McDonald's McRib, KFC's Popcorn Chicken, Panda Express's Black Pepper Chicken, and Arby's Potato Cakes have come and gone. Other fast-foodies, also feeling the loss, have signed petitions – like the 12 separate campaigns to bring back Potato Cakes. One has 7,242 (at the time of publication), including mine. Supporters of Taco Bell's Bacon Club Chalupa celebrated its return, albeit temporarily, after creating a Facebook page with 700 followers. One lamented: "I quit buying new things at Taco Bell. They're literally only around for a month before they move on to something else. Why do I want to fall in love with something just to have it ripped away?" Well, I know they feel.

And what's the deal with the McRib? McDonald's decision-makers trifle with our affections — like the date who ghosts us, only to return like a zombie from some fast-food version of "The Walking Dead." Stop being so insecure, McRib. We want you, OK? Come back ... for good!

But why do they tease us? Why do chains eliminate our favorites only to bring them back?

Is permanent actually permanent?

Excuses for removing fan favorites may be seasonal, environmental, or financial. In removing my beloved Mexican Pizza, Taco Bell claimed they wanted to use less packaging – the boxes accounted for over seven million pounds of paperboard per year in the United States. Of course, I admire this, but why throw the baby out with the bath water? KFC eliminated menu items to streamline in-store production. And, Panda Express discontinued Black Pepper Chicken to make room for Firecracker Chicken, as this Redditor laments. Is there really not enough room for both?

Thankfully, Mexican Pizza, Taco Bell claims, is now permanent. I remain wary. Six months post-promise, Taco Bell Canada (TBC) tweeted that the Mexican Pizza would soon be removed. My Canadian brethren — who may soon be making a run for the border — were then subjected to Taco taunts on Twitter: "Run don't walk!! Mexican Pizza ends on April 2nd!!" One devotee pleaded: "Please don't take it away again. It's the best thing ever. I'm begging you, please keep it." Pitiful. 

We are helpless peasants watching TBC throw back its head with a maniacal laugh. Lord Taco teases us to keep our interest, by giving us (false?) hope: "You never know what the future holds," it mocks. And, even Arby's dangled a similar carrot: "Although our Potato Cakes have been discontinued (for now), who's to say they're gone forever?"

Fast food execs, have mercy. Remember, it's a symbiotic relationship. You need us as much as we need your food.

Sometimes our plea is heard -- but not often

Taco Bell introduced the Mexican Pizza in 1985 and it has now become the poster child for how fans can inspire a permanent menu outcome (unless you're Canadian) after one man circulated a petition with 171,646 signatures. Then, rapper Doja Cat got involved and wrote a love song. 

If that wasn't enough of a signal to Taco Bell that we were furious about its absence, "Mexican Pizza: The Musical" starring Dolly Parton, should have been all it took. I mean, were Taco Bell execs that clueless about Mexican Pizza's appeal, or was it a brilliant marketing plan to get people talking? In any case, Fast Food Big Wigs, please hear our plea. Stop messing with our affections. You could lose us to the steadfast Dave's Single or Jimmy John's Beach Club.

But, if your fast-food jingle doesn't work, fear not. We can use social media to unite, fight, mouth off, or boycott. Write to corporate, complain to the local manager/franchisee, start a petition, or recruit a famous rapper. Or, if you're really desperate you can make your own with this copycat recipe

I will continue to appeal to the QSR companies. But, in the scheme of things, the lack of Potato Cakes is a minor disruption. And, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson said: "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Here's the bright side: If I keep searching, I will no doubt find new foods to love. Just writing about this has set me free. As Gloria says: "I will survive."