McDonald’s is bringing back one of its most expensive failures — but there’s a catch

A McDonald's Arch Deluxe commercial from 1996.

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A McDonald’s Arch Deluxe commercial from 1996.
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McDonald’s via Andrew Selvaggio

  • McDonald’s is testing a burger made with fresh beef, called the Archburger, at a handful of locations.
  • The burger seems to be a revamped version of the Arch Deluxe, a McDonald’s flop from the late 1990s.
  • The New York Times reported that McDonald’s spent an estimated $200 million advertising the Arch Deluxe in 1996 before discontinuing the burger, which was designed to win over more sophisticated customers.
  • When it debuted, the burger was slightly pricier than other McDonald’s fare. But now it’s comparably cheaper.

McDonald’s is testing a new take on a high-profile flop.

The fast-food chain recently began a test of Archburgers made with fresh beef at a handful of restaurants, McDonald’s confirmed to Business Insider. A note from the Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski says it’s testing the fresh-beef burger at seven locations in Oklahoma and Texas.

With the test, it appears the chain’s Arch Sauce, a mustard-mayo combination, has returned to the menu. The sauce debuted in 1996 a topping for the Arch Deluxe, a sandwich aimed at more sophisticated and “adult” customers.

A Big Mac.

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A Big Mac.
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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

McDonald’s spent an estimated $150 million to $200 million advertising the Arch Deluxe’s rollout – at the time the most expensive promotional campaign in fast-food history, The New York Times reported.

Though the fast-food chain’s executives had predicted it would bring in $1 billion in sales in 1996, the burger – which at $2.09 to $2.49 was on par with or pricier than typical McDonald’s fare – failed to win over customers and was discontinued in the late ’90s.

Now, McDonald’s is once again trying to use Arch Sauce to appeal to more gourmet-minded customers, pairing it with fresh beef in the Archburger. But this time, an Archburger with cheese, pickles, onions, and the sauce is cheaper, starting at $2.19. For comparison, a Big Mac costs about $4.

“We are continuing to raise the bar for our customers with new menu items and ways to experience our brand,” said Becca Hary, a McDonald’s representative.