Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

The fast food industry has a truth-in-advertising problem. And it’s probably a lot worse than you realise. These side-by-side photos show why you should never trust the marketing.

Takeaway Truth was a popular Lifehacker feature where we compared fast food advertisements to cold, hard reality. While a little artistic licence is to be expected, sometimes the differences between the poster and the real thing are ridiculous. Today, we take a look back at some of the worst offenders of all time. Look upon thy works, Ronald McDonald, and despair.

You can click on the product name to read the full, original review.

McDonald’s McMate Beef Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“One of the most glaring discrepancies is the size of the top buns. In the poster, it’s completely dwarfed by the larger-than-life ingredients — it almost looks like the McMate is wearing a little bread hat. In reality, the bun takes up a lot more real estate.”

KFC Nacho Box

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The most glaring difference is the lack of visible corn chips — instead of popping out like individual hors d’oeuvres, the chips were all buried at the bottom of the box. Nachos? It looks more like week-old garbage mixed with surgery leftovers.”

Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double Whopper

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Wow. Just look at it. The only ‘whopper’ in that photo is the big fat lie Hungry Jack’s is selling us. Terrible.”

Subway Mexican Chicken Flatbread

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Herpes in bread form.”

Mad Mex Spicy Habanero Steak Quesadilla

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“With apologies to our Spanish-speaking readers: Cagaste y saltaste en la caca!!! It looks like Gilbert Kane’s ruptured stomach after the xenomorph burst through it in Alien .”

McDonald’s Son Of Mac

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Oh dear. Someone appears to have sat on our burger. This is unacceptable.”

McDonald’s Bacon And Cheese Sauce Loaded Fries

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The colours are wrong, the quantities are off and the bacon looks more like grated beef jerky. Are these even the same ingredients? I’m genuinely not sure.”

KFC The Mighty Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“There’s clearly an implication that this is a colossal burger — perhaps the biggest you’ll ever wrap your hands around. In reality, it’s not much bigger than a Big Mac or Zinger. In other words, the poster is still fibbing even if you don’t take the burger’s scale literally.”

Carl’s Jr. Jalapeno Thickburger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Hmmm. While the real thing is by no means disgusting, it’s also significantly less attractive than the advert would have us believe — even if you ignore Kate Upton.”

Mad Mex Baja Prawn Tacos

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Eew. The most glaring difference between the two images is the avalanche of lettuce smothering the real tacos. The advertising image has none. I specifically requested that my tacos be made to look like the poster with no extras, so I’m not sure what happened there.”

McDonald’s Real Choices Breakfast Wraps

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The English Brekkie Wrap fell apart the moment we opened the packaging while the Bacon, Egg and Tomato stuffed everything into the bottom half of the wrap. We were also disappointed by the distribution of ingredients – instead of marrying everything together, the egg, sausage and bacon were all shoved in separately, which created a layered effect. This made it nearly impossible to taste everything in one bite, an issue that the poster image clearly doesn’t suffer from.”

McDonald’s Sausage & Egg McMuffin

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“It would seem that McDonald’s sloppy burger making practices have also infected the breakkie staff. Our McMuffin was a hastily slapped together mishmash of mutant-looking bread. A lazy effort.”

Red Rooster Big Aussie Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“As you can see, the real Big Aussie isn’t a patch on the promotional image. This usually comes down crap burger assembly, but on this occasion there certainly seems to be markedly fewer ingredients.”

Subway Bacon, Poached Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sub

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“I feel it’s worth noting that I specifically asked the “sandwich artist” to make my sub look like the one on the poster.”

KFC Kentucky Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The coleslaw looks completely gross and bears almost no resemblance to the poster. In place of the lovely medley of carrots, cabbags and mayo, you get a swamp of glistening, unidentifiable lumps which look suspiciously like hocked-up loogies. Lovely.”

Domino’s All Day Breakfast Pizza

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The most obvious difference between the two images is the crusts — the marketing image has toppings spilling right to the edge, whereas the real version has an expanse of empty real estate. While this could be due to a trick of perspective, it still gives a false impression of a more toppings and less crust.”

McDonald’s McMate Chickem Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“The McMate Chicken didn’t come with bacon as advertised. Presumably, this was an innocent oversight by a staff member but it’s not the first time we’ve had this happen during a McDonald’s Takeaway Truth.”

McDonald’s World Cup Australia Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

“Oh dear. It would seem McDonald’s was barracking for Australia to bomb in the World Cup, if this burger is anything to go by. Disgustingly sloppy assembly, a noticeably smaller chicken patty and an inexplicably deformed bun all conspire to make this a truly awful burger. Instant red card.”

KFC Grilled Taster Box

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

KFC, that’s just rubbish. Where are the charred grill marks so prominently displayed on your poster? The size of the chicken piece is also considerably smaller and the chips look soggy and under-cooked.

Hungry Jack’s Deluxe Country Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

We suppose the Deluxe Country burger isn’t too bad — if you ignore the almost complete lack of salad and the fact that the meat patty looks like a dog poo. (These are difficult things to ignore, admittedly.)

Subway Meatball Sub

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing


Mad Mex Chorizo Quesadilla

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

Even allowing for the advert’s soft focus and superior lighting, it’s obvious that the real tortilla isn’t quite up to snuff. It has a prominent oily sheen and the bread’s texture is flimsier looking. The filling also appears to be less generous resulting in thinner quesadillas.

KFC Parmy Stacker Burger

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

Do we really even need to critique this? There’s barely any resemblance between the two burgers.

Domino’s Chef’s Best Pepperoni & Parmesan Pizza

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

Our Pepperoni & Parmesan Pizza wasn’t nearly as sumptuous looking as we were led to believe by Domino’s marketing material. The grated parmesan is barely visible, the pepperoni has been laid with less care (there’s also less of it) and the mozzarella is far less generous.

KFC’s Grilled Salsa Twister:

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

The first wrap looks like it was painstakingly prepared by the head chef at a Michelin rated restaurant. The second one looks like it was knocked together by a hammer-stunned rooster.

McDonald’s New Chicken Burger Range

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

There’s no hiding the fact that these burgers fail to measure up to the advertised image — the chicken patties look thinner, the buns aren’t as plump and the salads are a bit measly across the board. Collectively, the McDonald’s Chicken range is pretty fowl.

Nando’s ‘Little Hotties’ Snack Range

Fast Food Adverts Vs The Real Thing

When there’s no hot woman to distract you, it becomes blatantly obvious how misleading the Nando images are. The Pequeno Mini Chicken Pita is especially deceptive: the reality is a limp, soggy pocket of sadness with none of the vibrant fillings depicted in the advertisement. This is especially galling when you consider Nando’s positions itself as an ‘upmarket’ fast food restaurant, with exorbitant prices to match.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Anyone who eats junk food deserves what they get.

    And most food photography uses fake food. It’s stylised to look good, and photographed in a studio, under studio lights, but it’s inedible.

    • Food snob alert!

      Which camp are you? ‘If it ain’t lentil it ain’t lunch’, cant get through the day without saying ‘smashed avo’ or ‘this $15 burger and $9 fries is totally healthier than a hungry jacks’?

    • Some of it certainly does, but in a lot of cases it’s real food. It’s just that it’s carefully cooked and assembled for maximum attractiveness. It might take 30 minutes to make a burger for the photo not 3 like in the real shop. And then they push the patty and other ingredients into just the right position. If you rotated the photo burgers the back side would sag because all the ingredients are hanging out the front.

      On a different note, I have had fast food that looked as good as the promo shots. And other times it’s been even worse than the photos in the article. A lot of it comes down to the skill (laziness!) of the staff and how rushed they are. I also find that ordering at the counter usually produces better looking food than drivethru since you’re actually there to complain so they take a bit more care.

      Subway is usually very good. And I feel like a couple of the subway comparisons are disingenuous since they’re not the same meal as the photo. eg: the roll is toasted in one and not the other and in the photo it’s just meatballs and cheese, no vegies (both customer choices).

    • I’m not sure why you are getting downvoted, you are absolutely correct.

      I remember on an episode of Gruen, Dee Madigan explained some of the tricks which are used to make the food in ads. It is often glued together, the meat is simply browned with a blow torch, the buns are painted, etc.

      The reality most of the time is that no kid on minimum wage is going to be skilled enough or motivated enough to make anything even remotely similar to the promo shots.

      It might sound snobby but I could never eat fast food. It smells bad, it looks bad, and all too often it tastes bad. I’d rather skip the meal all together.

  • That’s got to be nearly all chains covered then.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – no other industry would get away with such misleading advertising. If nearly all car ads have to state “overseas model shown” it’s about time the ACCC got in on the fast food industry and required them to show a massive warning that the ads are completely unrepresentative of the food you’re likely to actually be served.

    • Yep agree, the KFC double parma looks like the worst offender from these photos!

      I know from personal experience the maccas loaded fries are the most misleading, they have a tiny pathetic amount of toppings so their adverts should definitely be illegal as you don’t get the ingredients in the ratio shown in the advert.

      Saying that I don’t mind if it looks like crap compared to the ad, it’s fast food, I’d rather it look passable but taste fine rather than them trying to make every burger look like perfection and it takes 15 mins to be served!

  • All fun and games, but There’s only a couple of bad ones here – mostly subway, though I’ve never had a sub that looked like that lol.

    It’s funny, but I don’t share these guy’s outrage – it’s ****ing food. I would sooner the picture show me the core ingredients than what the end product may look like. It’s not like they look the same every time anyways – it depends what the minimum wage kid in the kitchen does.

  • McDonald’s real pics always seem the one looking the least worst of the absolute worst.
    Where as with Hungry Jack’s that would look exactly how I’d expect it to be handed to me.
    Also that Sandwich artist in you area haha! Does he not know his own strength and therefore man-handles the bread? I’ve seen some shocking subs before but that’s pretty special.
    It’s all about how it tastes anyway right? I think I’ll skip the quesadillas

  • I’ve always found that western takeaway made in Asia is made with much greater care, and resembles the promo photos much more closely.
    Ultimately, it comes down to effort.

    • Fair comment, but if what you are getting is far less than what was advertised, that is just plain wrong. It doesn’t have to be millimetre perfect, but check astrogirl’s pictures above.

  • We’ve had a few assembly fails from McDonalds in the last couple of months.
    My son’s 1st ever BigMac had the middle bun immediately below the top bun, with nothing in between.
    I had a wrap which had the actual wrap crumpled down 1 end of the package, with the filling at the other end of the package. I needed a fork to eat it!
    And a fillet-o-fish with the cheese slice on top (outside) the bun, sticking it to the wrapper.

    It seems everything in this article (and comment) could be improved if the kitchen staff cared a bit.

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