In 2020, in the grips of a full-blown pandemic, fast food restaurants in America still pulled in $239 billion in revenue. The previous year it was $273 billion. That would rank fast food as the 44th biggest country in the world by GDP if it was being compared that way, ahead of Egypt, Portugal and New Zealand. That’s a lot of fast food.
It’s no wonder that fast food restaurants, especially the biggest ones, have the resources, the ability and sometimes just the audacity to branch out from selling salty, fatty foods and take on bigger challenges that are not even remotely fast food related.
There are just shy of 39,000 McDonald’s locations around the globe. The golden arches are a ubiquitous symbol, and there are likely few people left anywhere on Earth who don’t at least recognize them. And that recognition has translated into assistance abroad for those in need.
If you’re an American in Austria and need some down home help, you can head to the nearest McDonald’s. The chain is now offering consular assistance to American citizens who aren’t sure where else to go.
That means rather than hunting down the US embassy in Austria, you can just go ask Ronald McDonald for help. Staff have been trained to help Americans contact the embassy and get whatever help they may need. You can report a lost or stolen passport or get travel assistance. For bigger issues, they’ll place a call to the embassy to arrange for your needs. The restaurant still remains officially Austrian soil, however, so no trying to escape the Interpol in the Playland.
9. Hotel Taco Bell
A lot of people make jokes about Taco Bell, but it’s actually one of the healthiest fast food options you have. The company has managed to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to Mexican-ish food and they’re one of the few companies willing to take baffling risks with menu items including burritos made with Pop Rocks and tacos with “shells” made of fried chicken. But those aren’t the only innovations.
In 2019, Taco Bell decided on a pop up business idea in the form of a hotel. The Palm Springs resort featured Taco Bell-Hops and taco-themed everything for hardcore fans of the fast food chain. 70 rooms were available and they sold out in two minutes. Pillows were shaped like giant hot sauce packets, and the decor was designed to match. Even the mini-fridges were jammed with Taco Bell snacks.
Guests could get cinnamon-twist braids at the spa or swim up to the bar for an alcoholic Baja Blast. Surprisingly, the food was not exactly Taco Bell, but gourmet dishes inspired by Taco Bell menu items.
8. Pizza Hut Fragrances
The fragrance industry is a big one. It’s worth over $52 billion globally, which is pretty impressive. But how many different fragrances can there possibly be? More than you’d think, especially in a world where Play Doh perfume is a thing.
Pizza Hut hopped on the fragrance bandwagon back in 2012, making a perfume designed to smell like fresh baked pizza dough. It sounded like a joke but the product was real, although only made as a limited edition promotion.
Pizza Hut Canada came up with the idea to celebrate reaching 100,000 fans on Facebook. Only 110 bottles were produced and given away to fans. If you want to find one today, you’ll probably just have to hope to find one on eBay, or settle for a lesser pizza scented brand like the pizza fragrance from Demeter.
7. Emergency Hut
Fast food doesn’t always have to be goofy when they branch out and do more than just provide quick meals. That’s what happened back in 2015 when Pizza Hut literally saved the lives of a family in peril.
A woman in Florida was being held hostage along with her children. The woman had gotten into an argument with her boyfriend when he pulled a knife on her. He took her to pick up her children and brought them all back to the house, threatening to kill them if they tried to leave.
The woman convinced him to let her use her phone to place an order for pizza using Pizza Hut’s app. She was a regular customer so when the restaurant got her order and saw that she had requested they call 911 in the comments section, they did as they were asked and relayed the call for help to local police.
Cops arrived in time to defuse the situation and arrested the man before anyone was harmed.
6. Fast Food Weddings
There’s no denying food and romance are inextricably linked. Consider how ingrained in our psyches the idea of going out for dinner on a date is. There’s a certain intimacy to sharing a meal. Of course, fast food is usually frowned upon in that regard, and you may not make a good first impression if you take a date to McDonald’s. On the other hand, if you’re already in a long lasting relationship, it may be the place to go to make it official.
Both Dominos and McDonald’s have gotten into the wedding game. In 2017, Dominos Pizza launched a wedding registry so couples could request the gift of pizza to bless their union. Users can create a registry with a pizza-themed greeting and then add items that you feel will make your union more special. These include pizza and different pizza. (They’re actually just gift cards in different cash amounts that are usable at Dominos.)
McDonald’s in Hong Kong took weddings to the next level by offering four custom weddings packages for couples. That could include everything from balloons to a tiered apple pie cake. For just a few hundred dollars couples can reserve the restaurant for two hours, get custom decorations, an audio set up and even an MC. The deluxe package includes custom invitations and gifts for up to 50 guests.
5. KFC Infrastructure
Everyone has experienced the hassle of dealing with a pothole on their street. Sometimes a city can let these go for years without repairing them. And if it’s bad enough, a city can become known for its pockmarked appearance as streets all over become bumpy road hazards.
Most of the time you need to wait for the city to get around to doing something about these problems but Louisville, Kentucky got a helping hand back in 2009 when KFC offered to repair a whopping 350 potholes around the city. The only catch was they all had to be branded.
The restaurant chain ponied up $3,000 to fill the holes and a chalk stencil was applied over them that read “refreshed by KFC.” Apparently the restaurant offered to help the city, not specifically for pothole repair, but by offering city hall the money. The city opted to use it to fill the holes, and the stencil was added as an in-kind payment.
Cryptocurrency is bigger than ever these days with Bitcoin’s value skyrocketing and NFTs becoming the latest craze in making money on the Blockchain. But let it never be said that Burger King is not an innovator in the industry, since they launched their own cryptocurrency in Russia back in 2017.
WhopperCoin was given to customers for every ruble they spent at the restaurant. One ruble got you one WhopperCoin. It took 1,700 WhopperCoins to actually get a Whopper, mind you. The virtual currency was hosted on the Waves blockchain.
Unlike BitCoin, or even DogeCoin, WhopperCoin did not prove to be a success in the cryptoworld. By the end of 2018 one WhopperCoin was worth $0.002 American. By 2019 it had no value whatsoever.
3. BK Corpse Storage
There is occasionally a very grim side to the fast food world and how it is able to adapt and lend a hand to those in need. We’ve already seen how the infrastructure at a major chain can be useful for connecting travelers abroad with government representatives, and even how their communication network can help get police aid. And then there are cold storage capabilities.
In the 1980s in Miami, a drug war was heating up to the point that Miami was labeled the drug capital of the world. Competing drug lords were at deadly odds with one another. Up to 70% of the weed and cocaine in America passed through Miami. All those drugs brought a body count with them. In 1980 alone there were 573 murders. In 1981, it was 621. For comparison, in 2019 there were 43.
The Miami-Dade morgue was unable to keep up with all the bodies they were trying to handle. 25% of all homicides in the city were the result of machine gun fire. They had to rent a refrigerator truck from Burger King to house the bodies and, for $800 a month, they continued to use it until 1988.
2. KFC Cinema
There’s something to be said for the relationship between fast food and Hollywood. Movies have always had an influence on fast food, and vice versa. Often a film will run cross promotions with chains, and you’ll often see chains featured in movies. The most egregious example of this is Mac and Me, an E.T. knock off from the ’80s that featured so much McDonald’s you’d think it was a commercial for them.
In the present, chains try to be a little more savvy with their advertising, making use of social media to get noticed. And then there’s KFC, which just up and made a Lifetime movie about their founder starring Saved by the Bell alum Mario Lopez.
The goofy promo was not a full length movie, but at 15 minutes it was hardly a typical TV spot, either. Incredibly, it also has a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning the majority of critics actually enjoyed the short film.
1. KFC Gaming PC
PC gaming is big business. While console gaming remains huge, PC gaming is no slouch. The market is worth about $38 billion. Getting involved in that doesn’t seem like a terrible idea for any business, but it may be a confusing one if your business is typically fried chicken.
KFC introduced a PC gaming system called the KFConsole. It looks like a bucket of chicken and, incredibly, can also be used to warm a bucket of chicken. In terms of specs, this chicken console was the real deal. It features an Intel Nuc 9, and an Asus powered GPU. It also featured two Seagate BarraCuda 1TB SSDs with PCIe NVMe speeds that are six times faster. If you’re not big on gaming, that means it was a fairly well made unit. It’s capable of 4K gaming and, as can’t be stated enough, it warms chicken.
No price was provided ahead of the console’s release, but based on the tech alone it looks like it’s a $2,000 machine, at least. For a weird gimmick, that’s pretty impressive.