The following article is from contributing writer Sean Markey, an Ireland-based freelance writer
The Irish fast food industry has changed a lot in the last six months. As Ireland’s more built-up areas become increasingly melting pot-like, it was only inevitable that the emerald isle would become infused with all manner of different cultures. Of course, the most exciting thing about new cultures is the delicious new flavours that they bring with them. One of the biggest populations of ‘new Irish’ people are from China and perhaps the greatest gift the Chinese people have brought to Ireland is the spice bag.
A spice bag is a simple enough recipe containing chicken (usually shredded and lightly battered), chunky fries (known colloquially as ‘chips’) and a mixture of red and green peppers, all jumbled up together in a bag. The ‘magic’ so to speak comes from the special blend of Chinese herbs and spices which is infused liberally on all of the ingredients. While this blend differs slightly from outlet to outlet, the main ingredients are always the same; chili and salt, which gives the dish a spicy and mildly tangy flavour.
At the beginning of 2015 I thought it might be an interesting experiment to collect a year's worth of those fast food coupons that appear regularly in the mail. In my neighborhood, the two most frequent fast food restaurants to send out coupons are Carl's Jr. and Arby's. These two, by far, outshine any other fast food chain. Between those throwaway newspaper-style circulars and the more glossy ad inserts, I get 2-3 from each chain every month. It's crazy. So I waded through a stack from each chain and followed a few popular fast food menu item prices as they changed over the course of the year. Here is the first report on the experiment following the Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger (the WBC).
Things were pretty consistent during the first half of the year, with the WBC coupon remaining Buy Two Get $3 Off through the beginning of July. Note, this is already a big trend in recent times where you have to buy two items to get a discount. You'll see that there are still deals to be had on single sandwiches, but it is obvious that the fast food marketers are getting creative with various offers in an attempt to squeeze as much margin out of each menu item while still giving a perception of value. For the purpose of this exercise and for clarity, let's call this $1.50 off each WBC.
The number five combo at Wienerschnitzel is a winner for those of you who are fans of the classic chili at this, the world's largest hot dog chain. The standard combo comes with a chili cheeseburger, chili cheese dog, fries, and a drink, all for about six bucks. Well, I had this wonderful coupon:
which afforded me the opportunity to enjoy a chili cheeseburger, chili cheese dog, and chili cheese fries all for $4.99. Even adding in the price of a drink I came out way ahead.
The Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger (or as I call it, the WBC) is a staple for me. Super straightforward in its design, the sandwich is always satisfying and strikes the perfect balance in the meat-to-condiment ratio of 0.9:1, if you count Bacon as a condiment like I do. A single beef patty, two onion rings, cheese, bacon, and bbq sauce on a sesame seed bun.
The Arby's Chicken Bacon Swiss sandwich is a fast food item that's been on the menu for decades. I can remember eating this sandwich back in the '90's and enjoying the fact that they make honey mustard a standard topping instead of the ubiquitous mayo at other chains.
The sandwich is simple, honey mustard, shredded lettuce, and tomato on the bottom; bacon, Swiss cheese, and more honey mustard on the top, all surrounding a crispy chicken breast.
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