The untold truth of Arby's

What do you really know about Arby's? Besides the fact that it's the place to go to satisfy your craving for that classic roast beef sandwich piled high with thinly sliced meat and drenched in Horsey Sauce? Probably not much. 

When it comes to fast food chains, Arby's seems to fly a bit under the radar compared to the likes of McDonald's and Burger King. But the roast beef joint has been around since 1964, and any business that's survived more than 50 years is bound to have their fair share of secrets, drama, and even a few gossip-worthy scandals. And Arby's does indeed.

It turns out that the meat-slinging restaurant has a history of trolling vegetarians, they've served up more than one sandwich with an ingredient that will definitely make you lose your lunch, they spent $44,100 on a hat (yes, one single hat), and they've been sued for one very odd reason that is completely unrelated to food. Let's dive into the untold truth of Arby's — there's so much more to the chain than just roast beef. 

The name doesn't mean what you think it means

It seems like every few years someone on social media makes the realization that the name "Arby's" could actually be a play on words. Take this Twitter user, whose mind was blown by his own revelation: "Just discovered: Roast Beef –> RB –> Arby's #mindblown."

But Arby's doesn't actually stand for "roast beef," and it's been an uphill battle for the chain to try to squash this rumor. In fact, as these claims surface again and again on social media, you'll see them make a valiant effort to set the record straight. In response to the aforementioned tweet, the company clarified, "Actually, the name Arby's is based on R. B., the initials of our founders the Raffel Brothers. #mindblownagain." (That's Leroy and Forrest Raffel, to be exact.)

Their explanation makes total sense, of course, but another Twitter user pointed out that the chain itself may have added to the name confusion with their slogan from the '80s — "America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir!" — which is clearly an acronym for Arby's. 

Is it possible that they just want people talking about them? Not a bad marketing approach, really. 

Is the roast beef really liquid meat?

Arby's roast beef has long been the subject of a nasty rumor. The story goes that the chain's signature sandwich meat actually starts out as a paste, powder, liquid, or gel, which then gets reconstituted before shaping, roasting, cooling, and slicing. So is there any truth to this unappetizing rumor?

Sorry, conspiracy theorists — this one is false. Snopes reports that Jim Lowder of Arby's Quality Assurance has stated, "Our product does not arrive as a paste, gel or liquid. Arby's Roast Beef consists entirely of Beef and a Self-Basting solution, which contains just enough water to keep the product juicy throughout our restaurants' 3-hour roasting process and during slicing — this ensures that we will deliver the quality that our customers have come to expect from our famous roast beef sandwiches."

Snopes further explains how an outsider might mistake a bag of the packaged roast beef for "liquid" meat. Because it comes in a gelatinous solution, the meat could resemble something decidedly not solid at first glance. But Arby's insiders confirm that there is indeed a chunk of solid meat swimming in that goo.

They brought new meaning to "finger sandwich"

There are many finger sandwiches we can get behind. An actual human finger in a sandwich? Not so much. But that's what one Arby's customer found in his sandwich in 2012. 

14-year-old Ryan Hart of Michigan made the unappetizing discovery as he was finishing his sandwich, when he chewed on something tough that tasted "like rubber." "I was like, 'that gots to be a finger,'" he told MLive. "I was about to puke... It was just nasty." Hart's mother explained that what her son spit out looked to be "the back of a finger, including the pad and extending beyond the first knuckle," and was an inch or more long. 

Brace yourselves — it turns out this wasn't some Wendy's finger-in-the-chili scam. It was soon realized that an Arby's employee had cut her finger on a meat slicer and left her station, leaving her co-workers unaware of what had happened, and, unbeknownst to them, also leaving them to serve up her severed finger. The chain called it an "isolated and unfortunate accident." But wait, if this is an isolated incident, why does this story sound so familiar?

The other finger incident

That "isolated and unfortunate" finger-in-the-sandwich accident of 2012? Maybe it's not so isolated after all — the same thing happened to an Ohio Arby's customer in 2004.

Now, we can all agree that crisp chicken skin is one of the best parts of the bird, but limp human skin? Doesn't quite do it for us. Unfortunately, that's just what David Scheiding found in his Arby's chicken sandwich when he bit into a piece of skin that didn't seem to belong to any poultry product. The offending bite contained a "piece of flesh about three-fourths of an inch long," and according to Scheiding, "It looked like I was seeing fingerprints on it. I got sick and went to the bathroom."

It didn't take long for health investigators to find the culprit of this kitchen catastrophe: An Arby's had sliced a chunk of skin off his thumb while shredding lettuce, and though he sanitized the area, he failed to dispose of the shredded lettuce itself. The lettuce and thumb skin mixture unfortunately found its way onto Scheiding's sandwich, prompting a lawsuit of more than $50,000 against the chain.

They were sued over a urinal

Fast food companies get sued on the regular — there was the McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit, the too-short Subway sandwich lawsuit, and the Starbucks underfilled latte lawsuit, to name a few. These lawsuits aren't particularly shocking. But when a fast food company gets sued over a urinal? That doesn't happen every day.

Unfortunately, it happened to Arby's in 2012 when a Colorado man sued the company after suffering burns while using the restaurant's facilities. According to CBS4, the lawsuit alleges that the customer was "utilizing the urinal in the men's restroom when it caused a jet of steam to shoot forth from the urinal and burn his genitals." Apparently this was a known problem, as the lawsuit further alleged that when an employee was made aware of the situation, they said, "we have that bathroom problem again," and "this happens when the sink in the kitchen is running." Ouch. 

The injured party sought "damages for financial losses and as a result of his injuries not being able to have sex with his wife," but there's no word on what the official settlement was.

They were sued for stealing a phrase

Another day, another fast food lawsuit. Arby's found itself in hot water in 2016 when they inadvertently used a phrase that another company had trademarked. The appropriated words? "Eat Your Bourbon" —  a slogan meant to advertise their new line of bourbon-infused sandwiches. 

Bourbon Barrel Foods, a gourmet food company based in Louisville, Kentucky, claimed that they had the sole rights to those words, and had used them since 2012 to promote their barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce aged in bourbon barrels, and bourbon-smoked sea salt. Owner Matt Jamie said that Arby's use of the phrase led to confusion with his customers.

For their part, Arby's acted fast upon receiving a cease and desist letter from Bourbon Barrel Foods, and agreed to pull the slogan from advertisements just one day after being informed of the trademark infringement suit. To replace the borrowed words and avoid a lawsuit, the fast food chain settled on a new slogan: "We Paired Bourbon — With Meats. And Buns."

They were criticized for their venison sandwich

It turns out Arby's has even more meats than you thought, including deer meat. Does the world really need fast food venison? Apparently. It was so popular in its initial test that Arby's rolled out the sandwich to mark the start of hunting season in 2017, making it available for one day only. But according to NPR, one hunting conservation group was none too pleased about it.

Upon learning of Arby's plan to mass produce these sandwiches, the Montana Wildlife Federation sent a letter asking them to reconsider. Executive director Dave Chadwick explained, "We really shouldn't be selling game animals for food. One of the real drivers of America's wildlife crisis in the 19th century was unregulated market hunting and the idea that big game animals were being shot and sold for food." While Arby's countered that the company sources its deer meat from game farms in New Zealand where it's perfectly legal, Chadwick insists that it's still problematic. "It's still just the principle of selling an animal that most Montanans recognize and hold dear...," he says. 

For what it's worth, one hunter who tasted the sandwich deemed it "deer-ite... Not a Budweiser but a Bud Lite. It doesn't have that punch to it but in a pinch it's not a bad sandwich." Not exactly a rave review.

You really can get a Meat Mountain if you ask

Arby's wants you to know that they "have the meats." Not just roast beef, but all the meats. That was the message intended behind a decidedly meaty poster that the chain put out in 2014, which featured a ginormous sandwich stacked with every single meat on Arby's menu. It was dubbed the Meat Mountain, and soon customers were actually asking for this off-the-menu monstrosity.

What's in a Meat Mountain? Oh, just 2 chicken tenders, 1.5 ounces of roast turkey, 1.5 ounces of ham, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, 1.5 ounces of corned beef, 1.5 ounces brisket, 1.5 ounces of Angus steak, 1 slice of cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces roast beef, 3 half-strips of bacon, and for a brief time in 2017, even a fish filet. It's a lot to stuff into one sandwich, to be sure, and it will cost you $10 (as of March 2019).

So, the good news? Yes, you really can order a Meat Mountain at Arby's. The bad news? You really can order a Meat Mountain. Proceed at your own risk.

They have a history of trolling vegetarians

Arby's is a meat-centric dining experience — that's clear from their menu. You will definitely not find a veggie burger, or even a substantial meat-free salad. Vegetarians have exactly six items to choose from at Arby's: One small side salad, and a choice of five fried sides. But their commitment to meat doesn't stop at a limited vegetarian menu. The chain has gone so far as to actively troll vegetarians with their ad campaigns. 

In 2015 with the launch of their brown sugar bacon, Arby's wrote "An Open Letter From Arby's to Vegetarians Across America," which included a Vegetarian Support Hotline for those so tempted by the new meaty product. The letter read, in part, "When your nose betrays you and alerts the rest of your senses to find and devour this sweet meat, please call 1-855-MEAT-HLP. You will receive the support you need to resist this gateway meat and get tips on how to avoid temptation."

Because that was so much fun, the chain announced in 2016 it would be celebrating Leap Day by offering a vegetarian-friendly menu. But wait, there's a catch. The sandwiches would simply be made without meat, and no other alterations. In other words, if you ordered a vegetarian roast beef sandwich, you'd get just a sesame seed bun. Expert level trolling, Arby's.

They've backed away from their roast beef only image

Yes, Arby's was founded on the roast beef sandwich, and they took some time to introduce other meats to their menu, but the chain doesn't want to be known as just a roast beef joint anymore. And that's exactly what their 2018 campaign focused on.

If an effort to make consumers aware that they "have the meats," the company launched a series of funny commercials highlighting their other offerings. In one commercial an exasperated chef — the chain's "head of sandwiches" — wonders, "Why do people still think Arby's is just roast beef, when we have 17 other sandwiches? Oh, I don't know... maybe it's all those 60-foot signs that say 'Arby's roast beef sandwiches are delicious,' or maybe it was because the last time you went to Arby's you were with your grandparents..." 

Way to call us out, Arby's. Maybe it has been awhile, but we have to admit, those 17 not roast beef sandwiches do look tasty. Smoked brisket, corned beef, ham, fried chicken, roast turkey, and even the occasional fish filet — apparently Arby's really does have all the meats these days.

They spent $44,100 on a hat

It all started after the 2014 Grammy Awards, when singer Pharrell Williams walked the red carpet in an oversized vintage Vivienne Westwood hat that reminded us all of the Arby's logo. Obviously.

The fast food chain took notice of the similarities too, and tweeted at the star, "Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs" Not to be outdone by Arby's, Pharrell fired back, "Y'all tryna start a roast beef?"

This good-natured Twitter war got plenty of attention, and culminated in Arby's actually purchasing the hat on eBay for a cool $44,100. Pharrell didn't seem to know the fast food company was the high bidder when he tweeted, "Thank you to whoever bought my Grammy hat on @eBay... Your donation benefits From One Hand To AnOTHER [a charity focused on sending kids to summer camp]." Arby's came forward with proof of purchase, and responded, "You're welcome. We're HAPPY to support a great cause & get our hat back." Get it? Happy... like the song. Arby's social media manager deserves a raise.

They sent "The Daily Show" free lunches for an odd reason

We know that Arby's doesn't shy away from a little trolling. In fact, trolling the fast food company might even get you a free lunch.

That's what it got Jon Stewart and the crew of The Daily Show, anyway. Grub Street reports that every time the one-time host would take a jab at Arby's, the chain would send along a free lunch the next day. Chief marketing officer Rob Lynch explained, "We had to make a tough decision. Do we send him a letter saying, 'We can't believe you're doing this — we use the highest quality ingredients.' Or do we play along? So we sent him and his crew lunch, and they sent us back a letter saying, 'Usually when we make fun of people, they send us nasty letters. You sent us lunch. That's awesome.' We were like, 'Yes! They loved the food, they like us. That was the perfect decision.' And then it happened again... Every time, we sent them lunch. Sometimes it was easier, and sometimes it was harder."

We're betting one-liners like, "Arby's: It's like shock and awe for your bowels," and "Arby's: Because your hunger is stronger than your memory" were a few of those harder-to-swallow times.