So word has recently come out that McDonald’s is testing table service and a new menu at locations in California. According to The Consumerist, “If you’re expecting McDonald’s table service option to rival that of any full-service restaurant, you’d better think again. Under the tests, customers will still order at the counter, the only change is their meal will be brought to their table by an employee.”

This is a fascinating approach to take, mainly due to the fact that they are not the first ones to take it. Rewind the clock about 22 years, and you’ll find that the Golden Arches’ top rival of the time, Burger King, attempted to employ a similar tactic:

In case you were wondering: yes, that is Dan Cortese in the commercial, the same guy who would soon after star in the Donkey Kong Country Exposed video for Nintendo.

But yeah, my family and I got to try these back in the day; I honestly enjoyed them, and was sad when they were discontinued — though, since they’d invested in the popcorn machine, that stuck around for a bit.

The setup is largely the same: you’d place your order per normal at the register between the hours of 4pm and 8pm, and you’d be given your drink cup and some of the aforementioned complementary popcorn to munch on while you waited. You’d place a little number placard on your table, and they’d bring your food out to you. No fuss, no muss.

Aside from the popcorn (and possibly the hours?), where it seems to really differ is in the offerings. Whereas McDonald’s is offering their “Taste Crafted” burgers and chicken menu, which is basically more customized offerings, BK shook things up a bit more by offering items not normally found on their menu as “dinner baskets.” Well, except the Whopper dinner basket, of course; besides that, you had a steak sandwich, chicken of some kind, and shrimp. New England also had fried clams as regional fare, and a little later, they introduced the meatloaf sandwich:

It was years before I ever ate a meatloaf — for some reason, the words “meat” and “loaf” just never set right with me, and my encounters with it usually involved had other stuff mixed in that I can’t eat. I barely even remember it as a Burger King thing, but looking back, I’m kind of wishing I’d tried it — minus the onions, of course — or at least probed further into it. Alas…

I can’t remember if I ever ate the steak sandwich, and I probably tried the chicken, but I can’t remember it very well at all (though Google News says they were chicken strips). The one I remember most was getting shrimp, though, and as far as I can recall, it was good shrimp. I also took full advantage of the baked potato and coleslaw side options over fries and salads; it’s a shame that those didn’t last, at least the baked potato — I still get baked potatoes at Wendy’s to this day.

Sadly, it was not to last. Apparently consumers just didn’t associate things like shrimp and steak with a place like Burger King, leading to the program being shut down before too long. In this regard, this might be where McDonald’s is playing things smarter by offering something of a higher quality to their norm, but not so much that it leads to any sort of clash with their brand.

Interestingly enough, while the U.S. has recently gotten all-day breakfast (in a limited capacity) at their McDonald’s, there has been no such luck in Canada. Via the Globe & Mail, what we were to get “instead” was basically the same thing they’re testing in California, though I’ve not seen any sign of it around here yet. In addition to the table service, customers can place their custom orders through digital kiosks.

Much as I’d love to partake in an all-day breakfast, the lack of biscuits in this market and — to my understanding — the lack of McGriddles in the equation has me more interested in this newer option, whenever it comes. That said, I kind of wish they’d add baked potatoes to go with it.

Maybe we can compromise and get a hash brown with our fancy “Create Your Taste” burgers?

Probably not, but it was worth a shot. Maybe I’ll just stick with my poutine or side salads.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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