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The Surprising Reason Why Wendy's Serves Fast Food's Only Baked Potato

Mental Floss logo Mental Floss 9/21/2017 Jake Rossen
The Surprising Reason Why Wendy's Serves Fast Food's Only Baked Potato © iStock The Surprising Reason Why Wendy's Serves Fast Food's Only Baked Potato

For an industry that prides itself on convenience and indulgence, a fiber-rich pseudo-vegetable that’s hard to eat on the go and isn’t deep-fried seems like a curious addition to a fast food menu. Yet Wendy’s has been selling baked potatoes for nearly three decades—11-and-a-half ounces of pure, unpeeled spud, drowned in your choice of toppings.

According to Thrillist writer Wil Fulton, who spoke with Wendy’s vice president of culinary innovation Lori Estrada, the chain first got turned on to the foil-wrapped food in the 1980s, when nutrition experts were (erroneously) touting low-fat diets for weight loss. Eager to embrace the trend, Wendy's viewed a plain potato as a popular alternative to sliced, oil-slicked fries.

The hysteria over fat may have disappeared, but the collective consumer appetite for the potato did not. Estrada says she believes many of them consider the 270-to-480 calorie (depending on toppings) carb dump a meal unto itself, and that some enjoy piling on cheese, bacon, and other burger trimmings for a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

So why don’t you see baked potatoes at other franchises? Estrada speculates that the logistical issues are a turnoff. The potatoes are cooked from a raw state in convection ovens, which could necessitate new equipment and ample prep time. With fries still the king of sides, franchisees may not think it’s worth the hassle.

Wendy’s is undoubtedly happy to have the market to themselves: The chain sells 1 million tubers a week.

GALLERY: We tried McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King's signature burgers — and the winner is unmistakable [provided by Business Insider]

a close up of a sandwich on a plate: McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King are each known for their signature burgers. We tried all three of them to see which one was the best.Ultimately, the Big Mac, which is  celebrating its 50th birthday this week, came out on top. In terms of menu choices, fast-food chains are a lot like car brands - there's something for everyone. Five-piece chicken nuggets for the on-the-go soccer mom. A quarter pounder with cheese for the erudite lovers of the classics. A salad for ... someone. And for the person who enjoys the finer things in life, there are the flagships: the signature burgers. Without these, fast food would lose all meaning. I decided to contrast the signature sandwiches of the fast-food "big three" - the Whopper at Burger King, the Big Mac at McDonald's, and the Dave's Single at Wendy's - with one question in mind: Which chain truly makes the best flagship burger? We compared McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King's signature burgers

[h/t Thrillist]

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