Fast food replays its greatest hits in 2022
If you’re looking to captivate people and get them talking, Resurrection is one of the oldest plays in the (literal) book. Just ask Jesus Christ. This year sees returns of Nicholas Cage, The abbey in the town center, low-rise jeans and authoritarian control over women’s bodies. And fast food chains are riding the trend with their own resurrections.
Famous Doja Cat rapped mexican pizza back into existence at Taco Bell (back on May 19). McDonald’s brought back its craze Szechuan Sauce in March. With the expansion of its original slider from 1921 promotion, White Castle asked, “What if our meat didn’t have holes?” And now, in a new press release, Panera explains that she “Frontega’d Up” — whatever that means — when she opted to quit the alleged fan-favorite Frontega Chicken Sandwich. Panera announced the sandwich’s return with an apology tour (in which the brand, unfortunately, double on the terrible substitution “frontega = fuck”).
Why fast food brands keep reviving old menu items as “new”
As much as the optimists among us would like to see these acts as benevolent acts to reward an eager clientele, we cynics can also point out the clever marketing stunts these menu items represent. It turns out that Doja Cat didn’t inspire Taco Bell executives, but instead got paid off by them as part of a seemingly organic rollout for the return of the beloved Mexican pizza. Get your hands on Szechuan sauce this year came with the caveat that you could only order it through the McDonald’s app. Panera went public with the alleged uproar caused by the removal of the chicken sandwich from its menu, with a spokesperson explaining in the press release: “We are always listening to our guests, so when we get the kind of reaction we saw with the Toasted Frontega, we knew we had to bring it back.
By casting Frontega’s return as a response to overwhelming social media complaints, Panera has positioned itself with an opportunity that, frankly, I didn’t know existed – and now I really want to try this sandwich.
Fast food has exploded during the pandemic, in part because of its convenience and the built-in social distancing of drive-thru and delivery, but also, I suspect, because this food is often synonymous with convenience: quick access , cheap and easy to soothe your pain. In a world of uncertainty, marketing the new and the unknown seems daunting. Whereas six or seven years ago we were on the hunt for crazy stuffed crusts and sprinkling everything with Cheeto, today we basically want what we know.
Bringing back favorites from the past, with assists from beloved celebrities like Doja Cat, Dolly Partonand rick and morty— these fast food joints lean into our desires for comfort amidst today’s chaos. And they’re in pretty good company with Gen-Z TikTokers, Dame Maggie Smith, and even Jesus frontegin’ Christ, all set for a good resurrection story.