[Photographs: Todd Brock, unless otherwise noted]

The following exchange may (or may not) have actually taken place at a recent corporate meeting at Rally's/Checkers.

"Thanks for coming, everyone. Let's get started by spitballing some ideas for our next special menu item. The top floor wants a new burger. Something that gets people talking, something sexy, maybe a little extreme sounding."

"How about we get the best-quality fresh beef we can buy and then hand-grind..."

"Let me stop you right there. You're the new guy, right? Here's the thing. We gotta use stuff they already have in the stores."

"So it's like Apollo 13, and we're like NASA?"

"And we gotta be able to sell it for a buck."

"Oh. So it's harder than Apollo 13."

"Anyone else have an idea? Yes, Mickey?"


"It's Mike, sir. People seem to like our seasoned french fries. You know, they're battered and pretty heavily peppered. Nice and crisp on the very outside, but airy and fluffy inside. The kids down in the tech department who handle all the interweb stuff say that a lot of people think our fries are as good as McDonald's fries. So what if we put them on a burger?"

"You mean as a topping? Keep going, Mark."

"It's actually Mike. Lots of places already do it with onion rings. We start with our regular hand-seasoned patty, right? Add a slice of American cheese, some of our fries, then squirt ketchup, mustard, and mayo on top of the fries. Maybe even some pickles. Finally, our standard sesame-seed bun. We could call it the Fry Lover's Burger. I had the art department go ahead and work up a publicity shot."

20120918-222541-checkers-rallys-fry-lovers-burger-pr shot.jpg

[Photograph: Checkers/Rally's]

"Wow, looks great, Matt. And we can sell THAT for a dollar?"

"Mike. Well, that's been primped and fluffed by a professional food stylist. The real thing won't look like quite the same, of course. It'll be more like this."



"I know, sir. But to hit that one-dollar price point, we have to go light on the fries. Like, six to a burger. Eight at most. It's just enough that legal says we can still call it a Fry Lover's Burger. But it's not so many that we discourage people from ordering a side of fries to go with it."


"So we're luring customers in with a burger that sounds like it has your side already on it... but people will still buy a side anyway? Interesting. How do we think it'll taste, Max?"

"My name is Mike, but whatever. Actually, sir, the french fry flavor and texture is hard to discern. The thing that hits you first when you bite in is actually the ketchup and mustard. Then it all just becomes sort of a mouthful of stuff: commercial burger and generic bun with some extra filler in there. We did a blind taste test of a regular cheeseburger and a Fry Lover's Burger. The Fry Lover's Burger felt thicker and heavier in the mouth—there's simply more mass per mouthful—but the two tasted almost identical."

"So not all that good, and not appreciably different from a normal $1 burger. And on top of that, if you're truly a Fry Lover, this burger probably won't satisfy you?"

"It's interesting, sir, we think that people who want a genuine fries-on-a-burger sensation will just open up their sandwich and add more fries out of the side order they also bought. Like this."


"How many more do you have to add to get a noticeable french fry taste?"

"About 30, sir. That's an entire small order."

"Do we even know that people will eat fries on top of a burger?"

"It's been a real thing at a small chain in Pittsburgh for years, sir. I saw it on Man v. Food. They throw a huge fistful of their fries on every sandwich, and people pack the place at all hours. They buy T-shirts and everything."


"But we're not doing the 'huge fistful' thing, right?"

"No way, sir. Not if we only want to charge a dollar. We'll do six to eight. If people want to go all Primanti Bros. on it, they'll have to do that themselves."

"So they'll spend two to three dollars to get what we're essentially promising for a buck. That's genius, Marvin. You're going places. Take the new guy under your wing. Now let's get this thing out there before Hardee's beats us to it."

About the author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.

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