At Friendly’s, a U.S. restaurant chain, customers can now order a burger with grilled cheese sandwiches where the bun should be. The Grilled Cheese BurgerMelt (tipping the scales at an alarming 1,500 calories) follows on the heels of the KFC Double Down (bacon and cheese sandwiched between deep-fried chicken filets). Both join the ranks of gut-busters like Burger King’s four-patty Quad Stacker, and Wendy’s Baconator—a growing number of sandwiches that sound less like a real meal than food to eat on a dare.
This fast-food arms race happens just as chains are also pushing healthier choices like salads, apple slices, and two per cent milk. “They’re trying to give Americans what they say they want, and what they really want,” says Harry Balzer, a fast-food analyst for the NPD Group. “It’s not always one and the same.” What’s more, KFC’s shock-and-awe campaign for its Double Down generated lots of free buzz: with endless chatter on Facebook and Twitter, it was a social media sensation. (Originally only on offer in the U.S. for a limited time, its stay was recently extended.) Reason enough for Friendly’s to put the BurgerMelt on the menu, even if only a few brave souls will order it.