The Truth About McDonald's Arch Deluxe

Like any average person, Ronald McDonald isn't immune to mistakes, though unlike most of us, Ronald's mistakes could cost the company a couple handfuls of bills. In the past, the fast-food company failed at a diner concept (via AP News), tried selling McPizzas (via Wide Open Eats), and in this case, promoted a sophisticated "Yuppie-fied" burger known as the Arch Deluxe. Billed as McDonald's most expensive mistake, costing a humble 100 million Benjamins, the Arch Deluxe was a burger no one wanted to eat. The sandwich floundered around for only two years or so after its development and faded off into history, only to reappear here and there before the McDonald's executives gave up the ghost. 

Although it ultimately failed to appear more sophisticated and classy, much like the infamous Rax Roast Beef restaurants fiasco, people sometimes forget about the story — and the man who was commissioned to craft it — that made the Arch Deluxe the spectacular mistake it was doomed to be.

Andrew Selvaggio: The man behind the beef

"The Arch Deluxe was supposed to be the first entry into a better burger — premium burger — experience for McDonald's," stated fine dining chef Andrew Selvaggio, according to Eater. Perhaps there's a bit of forlornness in his voice, or perhaps there's a bit of nostalgia — and why wouldn't there be? Andrew Selvaggio, in 1994, was hired by McDonald's as its head chef and was later approached with the task of creating a burger with a "distinctly adult taste." One would assume that this would be an easy job — after all, this is McDonald's, not the French laundry. 

On the contrary, Eater explains how Selvaggio plunged into this task with all the vigor a chef of his caliber could have. The chef boldly tasted 30 types of mustard for the special sauce, worked with bakers to develop the perfect potato roll, and even worked closely on the "development of peppered bacon procedures." The goal? To create a burger composed of crisp lettuce, mustard-mayo sauce, peppered bacon, tomato, and beef on a bakery-style potato roll — all for the refined palate. 

Such was the energy and passion that Selvaggio was pouring into this project that Rob Kasper in a 1996 Baltimore Sun article described him as a "sandwich architect" and went into detail about the executive chef's poetic and culinary vision toward the construction of fast-food sandwiches. One cannot say Mr. Andrew Selvaggio was phoning it in!

The McChoices they made

With all the passion and gusto Andrew Selvaggio was putting into the Arch Deluxe, what caused it to become such a failure? The answer, as we at Mashed and many other sites have explained, is simple: McDonald's was catering to the wrong crowd. "McDonald's — the symbol of fast, low-priced American food — was seeking the sophisticated, urban demographic," How Stuff Works bluntly put it. No one wanted to kid themselves that they were eating fancy at Mickey D's.

Commercials of Ronald McDonald playing golf and children showing disgust at the "high-class" sandwich surprisingly didn't help attract customers as much as they thought. According to Selvaggio, the whole process of assembling the Arch Deluxe's new ingredients wasn't catching on with other franchise locations. After a tepid response, the Arch Deluxe faded into the background.

Perhaps, reflects Eater, the greatest tragedy is that had the Arch Deluxe come out in a different time, and under a different marketing gimmick, it could have been a far better success. In the modern world of celebrity endorsements and social media, perhaps the Arch Deluxe could have found a home with hipsters and influencers all across the web.

As for Andrew Selvaggio? According to Eater, he stayed at McDonald's for many more years until working for Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee in 2009. But, it's said he still looks back on his time with Ronald and friends — and the Arch Deluxe — with fondness and a smile as bright as the Golden Arches.