Imagine you’re a kid in the early 90’s. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, and after a successful round of cartoons, Bob Ross and Rice Krispy’s Treats cereal, you devote the rest of your day to convincing your Dad to take the family to McDonald’s for dinner.
In an effort to get you to shut up for 5 minutes on his weekend off from work, he reluctantly agrees and you celebrate with Ninja Turtle spin kicks while your brother dances to Vanilla Ice.
When we roll up to the Golden Arches later that evening we’re absolutely gobsmacked. What was going to be an easy choice of a Happy Meal and Orange Crush has been contested with something we didn’t think would ever be possible – there was pizza on the menu.
Pizza was as popular as its ever been in the mid-80’s and early 90’s. We all remember the opening scene from Secret Of The Ooze when everyone in NYC is stretching out the cheese on a delicious looking slice. Pizza Huts were regularly filled for dinner and other large chains and independent parlours were growing rapidly.
But what was just as popular as pizza? McDonald’s.
Not wanting to miss out on a piece of the literal pie, McDonald’s got to work developing a product that could live up to their fast food reputation.
They began with a patented oven that could cook a frozen pizza in 6 minutes. The result was a shockingly tasty pie that was on your table in about a third of the time that you were used to from the major chain pizza parlours.
While the pizza was speedy and delicious, it came with a whole host of other problems that needed to be addressed.
The ovens themselves weren’t small and required a remodel of most restaurants to fit them into the kitchen. They also needed to expand their drive through windows to accommodate a family-sized pizza box.
McDonald’s spent a good portion of the 80’s strategizing and workshopping the concept and expanded their test market to over 20 restaurants.
The size of the pizzas were eventually scaled down to personal pan pizzas, and by 1991 they were available in over 500 locations. Wait times on the pies were beginning to take its toll on the restaurants as long lines were forced to wait over 10 minutes for their order to be ready – a cardinal sin for the quick-serve standard that McDonald’s was known for.
Because of the concerns surrounding the product, most franchises deserted the concept almost as quickly as it began. It also didn’t help that the pizza industry was ready to fist fight with every restaurant that tried to threaten their business model. Pizza Hut would often refer to the pizza as “McFrozen”. Dick move, Pizza Hut.
By 2000 McDonald’s pizza had virtually vanished from every menu board in the world.
Unless Black n Decker invents the pizza hydrator from Back to the Future II, it’s unlikely that we’ll see McDonald’s Pizza ever again, for all of the issues that led to its original demise.
It’s a shame though, as there was no better way to carbo-load than with a personal pan pizza and a large fry.