Don’t Waste Your Money: Fast food not as pictured

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Fast food advertising makes the offerings looking luscious and inviting. But what’s served is often a different story. Consumer Reports has gotten so many complaints, it decided to run some side-by-side comparisons.

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.


  • Mitch

    Well, what a surprise!!! Do you really want to eat uncooked food? Some of the things advertising companies use to make a product look appetizing in photographs would turn your stomach in real life.
    I guess our whites should glow when using certain detergents and our teeth should get that little sparkle that looks like a star when using whitening products. Good grief. It is advertising!!! They don’t say, “Buyer Beware” for nothing. When companies start saying sandwiches cure cancer or pizza heals ingrown toenails THAT would be worth a study.
    What a waste of money and time.

  • steve

    Mitch, it sounds like you don’t eat at any of those places – it’s not just about cooking but also quality and quantity. Yes, they all engage in false advertising but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called out for it.

    Years ago after seeing a pizza advertisement, we called for a delivery order. We told them we just saw their ad and that if the pizza didn’t look like the ad, we weren’t paying for it… we got the best pizza they ever made for resale.

    My point is that it wouldn’t be a waste of time if they were serioucly taken to task for false advertising.

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