A supposedly successful experiment that I’ll never repeat
I love delivery. Not only does it speak to my eternal laziness, but it makes me feel connected. It’s like getting mail, only faster and thus better. And so often, the things that one can get delivered are the great guilty pleasures — pizza, cupcakes, inexpensive Chinese food.
And now, apparently, Burger King.
Shortly after I moved into my new apartment, a flier showed up on my door announcing that I was part of Burger King’s new delivery area. (There are currently 7 stores in Maryland and 3 in Virginia offering delivery, with 6 more in Virginia starting up by the end of the month.) Normally, if a fast food hamburger isn’t enough to drag me out to a drive-through, then delivery doesn’t sound much better, but the flier promised new packaging to keep everything crisp and hot. This past summer, Alexis Madrigal wrote about the technology involved in pizza delivery packaging, so my curiosity was piqued enough to give it a try.
I put in the order. The preferred ordering system is online, although there is a phone number. The minimum order in my area is $10, which isn’t terribly convenient for one person. I order a Whopper combo (fries and a 20 ounce bottled soda), say yes to the suggested add-on chocolate pie, and add a side order of onion rings. This brings my total to $9.96, an aggravating four cents short of the minimum order. I add a one dollar side salad to push my total to $10.96. I knew when I took on this experiment that I was going to be ordering a lot of food, but this is still a bit intimidating.
And then, adding to the frustration of $9.96 not meeting the minimum order, the additional charges get added on. There’s sales tax, and a two dollar delivery charge — which the order form takes pains to clarify “is not a tip.” My official total comes to $13.51. I decide to give a two dollar tip, bringing my grand total to $15.51.
While the email I receive to confirm my order doesn’t promise a specific delivery time, the flier indicated that Burger King shoots for a 30-minute delivery. They don’t make it. I’m not really upset about this, but I am really hungry, and I’m trying not to snack on the food that’s already in my apartment. Which is probably better than the mountain of food that’s on its way. 30 minutes is probably too fast to expect for normal delivery, but it may also be too long to have to think about whether this experiment is really a good idea.
The food arrives, and it’s actually close enough to the 30-minute window that I should probably credit it as on time. (I actually have to interrupt my notes on whether the experiment was a good idea in order to get the door.) Somewhere along the way, a phantom 32 cents was added on to my order, but I chalk it up to an error in calculating the tax (two days later, I still can’t figure out how either $13.51 or $13.83 makes sense), and don’t make a big deal of it.
My order takes up two full bags, and this is what it looks like spread out on the table.
The innovative packaging, as you can see below, is largely a re-engineered McDLT box, where the lettuce and half the bun are kept separate from the hot portion of the burger. It folds up cleverly, but otherwise, it just kind of makes me want a McDLT. (McDonald’s brings back the McRib all the time. Why not the McDLT?)
After putting everything together, I’m almost ready to conclude that Burger King should use the separated box for all its sandwiches. The assembled burger is easily the most visually appealing I’ve ever gotten from a fast food restaurant. Burger King in particular seems to try to see exactly how flat they can make your food before giving it to you.
But how does it taste?
In all truth, it tastes like every other Whopper I’ve ever had, which means that the packaging works well. The fries have congealed a bit in their box, but once separated, they’re surprisingly crisp. The onion rings are exactly the taste and texture of the ones I’ve had straight from the deep-fryer.
But it’s hard to escape the fact, especially confronted by this pile of deep fried food, that none of it is very good. I ate less than a third of what I ordered, and the chocolate pie was the only part that was actually kind of good.
And that’s the funny thing, at least for me, about fast food. If I’m away from it for a while, it has an almost magnetic appeal, but more and more when I actually start eating it I have to confront the fact that it doesn’t even taste good. I made turkey burgers for dinner that night, and I’m really not the sort of person to get excited about turkey burgers, but they were far, far better than my lunch was.
So the final verdict: If you’re a Burger King fan, you’ll be impressed with their delivery. They do an amazing job of maintaining quality from the restaurant to your door, and if you’ve ever eaten fast food french fries that are more than ten minutes old, you know that’s quite a feat. I, on the other hand, have had enough Burger King to last me a long, long time.
Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.