How The Creator Of McDonald's Most Expensive Failure Really Feels

In the mid-90s, a new menu item called the Arch Deluxe was launched by McDonald's, in an attempt to create a "sophisticated" burger that would appeal to more refined adults and ideally expand the chain's consumer base beyond its family-friendly status. As such, the "Burger with the Grown-up Taste" was born. 

It was the brainchild of Andrew Selvaggio, once a chef at Chicago's famous Pump Room and then head chef at McDonald's for two years at that point, who was given the task to develop this bougie product. For a year he experimented. "I tasted at least 30 or more mustards for the Arch Deluxe sauce," he recalled in a recent interview with Eater.

The result — as seen in a commercial featuring Selvaggio, that's still on YouTube – was "the best ingredients" one burger could have. As it's described in the clip, that included crisp iceberg lettuce, stone-ground mustard sauce, and a soft potato roll, "all layered together in one symphony of taste." 

But, sadly, for all the work and hype, the item simply fizzled out and it remains one of the most infamous failures in the history of McDonald's. Though the Arch Deluxe survived for a few years, McDonald's eventually removed it from menus on August 18, 2000, after spending nearly $200 million to advertise it, per Eater.

"It was sort of hard working on a product so long and [to] see it not go anywhere. I learned not to get too attached," Selvaggio told the publication recently, the echoes of disappointment still just audible underneath the offhanded remark. However, in the years since, Selvaggio (who eventually left the company in 2009 and is now a culinary advisor at Jollibee) has found comments on the YouTube clip that still remain positive about his creation, such as, "I actually really liked the Arch Deluxe, and wish it would come back." And that pleases him.

What went wrong with the Arch Deluxe?

With such care that obviously went into the creating the Arch Deluxe, the question is, why did it fail?

Marketing91 did a case study on the burger's deploy and found that the issue with the Arch Deluxe was that McDonald's failed to recognize its own brand image and why it attracted the people it did. Namely, no one goes to McDonald's for sophistication. Moreover, those that desire more refined foods probably won't be won over by any burger McDonald's might unleash — even if it had caviar.

"Part of McDonald's brand identity is simplicity. Another part is its child-friendly approach. A 'sophisticated' burger designed to exclude children was therefore destined to misfire," rationalizes the outlet, who further explains the case of the Arch Deluxe is one that shows how disastrous it can be to lose touch with your customer base.

Eater does suggest that if the Arch Deluxe were to have debuted now and not in the '90s, it might have done better as people hold fast food in a different regard and are more used to chains launching more unique items. Though, a soft relaunch of the burger in 2018 still didn't pan out, says the article. That being said, with all of the more boutique places offering duck burgers or plant-based burgers, McDonald's would probably experience additional competition in this realm today, and it might not be worth it to reintroduce it. After all, McDonald's is McDonald's and when people go, they go for fare like their beloved Big Mac and fries. Or, in some cases, they go for BTS.

But that hasn't stopped one Facebook group from forming, publicizing their want for the Arch Deluxe to return.