Secret shoppers were sent with a photo studio in a van to seven fast-food chains, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s Quiznos, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. They visited several outlets of each to photograph a variety of menu items to compare what you see with what you’re served.
Although sometimes the food came close to the ads, the results for the most part were disappointing. In Consumer Reports’ small sample, the worst offender was Subway sandwiches. According to Subway, foods portrayed in its ads, quote “are made to the exact specifications as those found at our 26,000 restaurants.”
So why the big difference between ads and reality? Judi Orlick, a professional food stylist whose job it is to create food fantasies says “When you’re taking that photograph, we want to highlight and feature all of the elements in that sandwich. So what we’re doing is we are building that to play up to the camera, and appeal to your senses. And to make your eyes hungry.”
The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising, says it hasn’t pursued any cases regarding deceptive photos of food. An FTC spokesperson says actions are unlikely in cases of inexpensive products that consumers can easily evaluate.