Did you hear about the new item at Taco Bell?
The answer to that question is probably “no.” Or rather, “yes, but there’s an even newer one than the one you’re thinking of….so, no.”
New items are big business now. They were always a thing, but now we’re hearing about these things years in advance, with all the hype and lead-up of a new hit comedy on a major network. And while the outcome (in both cases) is generally disappointment, it’s definitely starting to take up a larger and larger part of my online news feed as something people legitimately think is actual news.
And frankly, it’s wearing a bit thin.
I like new items. In fact, my wife would probably (correctly) say I have an unhealthy interest in them. What I don’t like, however, is the way they’re portrayed in the media – as good or bad in the way that cures for diseases and wars are, respectively.
In short, it’s a list article of the things I’m tired of hearing about new items.
1) I’m tired of hearing that (insert restaurant) has “gone too far.” No one’s denying the world might not have been ready for a bacon-filled sandwich with chicken instead of bread. But it’s fast food. It has the same ability to go too far as a snack-food company, a hardware wholesaler or a roadside sweetcorn seller.
2) I’m tired of hearing that a new item fundamentally changes things. It’s food. As long as it still goes in and out of the same holes, it’s pretty much business as usual.
The guys at Taco Bell didn’t have some eureka moment about putting Cheetos in a burrito after decades of research. They sat twelve guys together in a meeting and asked, “What else can we throw inside a tortilla?” And after three separate people were shouted down for suggesting Fritos, because they’ve already done that, this is what we got.
3) I’m specifically tired of hearing that something is a “game-changer.” What game? This is a matter of personal taste, but this expression gets tacked onto everything from a new taco with a flavored shell all the way to…well, that, but a third kind of flavored shell.
4) I’m tired of hearing about “new” items. Burger joints are especially disadvantaged here, because there are only so many ways to put things between two buns. It’s a similar story for putting things in, on top of and beside tortillas. In most cases, “new” is being pretty generous.
5) And I can’t stand hearing about old “new” items. Just because the reviewer wasn’t alive the first time cheese and bacon stuffed crust pizzas came around doesn’t mean it’s a new item. Is it still delicious? Sure. It was also delicious in 1978, 1982, 1983, 1988, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2011.
6) I’m skeptical when I hear a new item will make me a loyal customer. Specifically because “customer loyalty” is a joke. More specifically because I hear it most about new items at Burger King and Pizza Hut, which are, frankly, jokes in their own right.
Your mileage may vary on this one. But I’ve gotten food poisoning the last three times I’ve eaten at Burger King. At this point, I’m not sure if there’s anything they could put between two buns to even make me chase a rolling quarter inside, let alone actually eat there.
7) Most of all, I’m tired of the wait. I used to be able to see a commercial for a burger with twelve strips of bacon, get in my car and then eat one. The time between learning about it and putting it into my face was often less than forty minutes. And it was a good system.
Nowadays, companies announce items on social media. They open to limited markets in the worst places to live in America. And then, after a year of reviewers talking about it like the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, you might actually get to eat one. I’m not sure I’ll stay excited from one season of Game of Thrones to the next. I don’t know how they expect me to stay excited about the newest combination of two Spanish words at Taco Bell.
And just think of how disappointed I am, after ten months, when it once again fails to change the game.