We let sandwich prices get out of control (part 3)

We let sandwich prices get out of control (part 3)

Disclaimer: You don’t have to read these posts in order, but it will make way more sense if you start out with “We let sandwich prices get out of control: Part 1.” followed by Part 2. The basic premise is that sandwich prices have gotten out of control and our only hope of avoiding the inevitable $20 price tag is for Subway and McDonald’s to fight on our behalf to lower prices. It’s a unique story where fast food restaurants are serving as the hero, not the villain. And, as you’ll see in a few paragraphs, this is definitely a work of fiction. Arguably the very first work of the “sandwich fiction” genre. Alright cool. Let’s begin.

We let sandwich prices get out of control (part 3)

Down the street, there’s a farmer’s market. Chicago has a few of these scattered about different neighborhoods. There are various vendors selling tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, asparagus, eggplants. It’s a weird feeling to shop for farm fresh vegetables with the city skyline in the background.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” McDonald’s said walking around the market with Subway. “Take this $20 bill and try to buy four different items. Any four things. I’ll give you half an hour.”

Subway took the $20 bill and started to make his rounds.

The first place to catch his eye was the booth with fresh bread. There were half a dozen baguettes. A couple of big loaves of sourdough. And a few exotic options like chocolate chip banana bread and a loaf of cinnamon raisin.

“Good morning,” the woman behind the counter said.

“Morning. Wow, this all looks awesome.”

“Thank you. Yeah, we’re doing a special on the baguettes. One for $14 or two for $37.”

“Wait. It’s more expensive to buy two?”

“Well, it’s local, so…”

Subway awkwardly sidestepped to the next booth. This one had small cartons of strawberries displayed for $8. Lettuce for $6. One station was selling eggplants for $750 per lb. Subway was doing the math in his head. There didn’t seem to be any possible path to four items for $20. And the clock was ticking. 27 minutes went by. 28. 29. He felt like he needed to at least buy something. Couldn’t go back to McDonald’s empty-handed.

“Any luck?” McDonald’s said. He met Subway in front of the kombucha and kimchi station.

“No. All I could get were two tomatoes, a handful of spinach, and six strawberries.”

“Hey, not bad.”

“Not bad? That’s hardly enough for a snack! Remember when a $20 bill used to mean something? Kids used to get a $20 bill and that was lunch money for the whole week plus a movie on Friday night.”

“Right? Here, let’s head over to HQ.”

McDonald’s headquarters used to be in Oak Brook, Illinois. Oak Brook was the home base for 47 years. But recently McDonald’s moved everything to a new $250 million dollar space in downtown Chicago. The biggest reason for the move was to stay hip and attract Millennial job talent.

It’s an awesome new location. Cool modern offices. Rooftop terraces. Fitness center. They have a restaurant downstairs with the most menu options you have ever seen at a McDonald’s. You can get things like a Stroopwafel McFlurry (from the Netherlands) or French fries with wasabi (Japanese menu). Next door is the famous Hamburger University where the students gain skills in leadership development, business growth, operations, and customer service. More than “40% of McDonald’s senior leaders are graduates of Hamburger University.”

McDonald’s led Subway over to a secret elevator in the back of Hamburger University. The two walked in, McDonald’s hit the basement button.

“The eat local movement,” McDonald’s started to explain. “Organic, grass-fed, all of it, it just slowly kept raising the prices on everything. And so if someone pays $5 for a tomato, is it that crazy to spend $12 for a sandwich?  The Sandwich Lobby started using this all to their advantage. Every time they needed to break through another pricing barrier, they had an excuse ready to go. $10 for a sandwich? Well yeah, the lettuce is organic. $15 for a burger? Well yeah, it’s grass-fed beef. And every time they did this, it made our fast food menu, by comparison, look more and more inferior.”

“Which is why I raised my footlong price to $6,” Subway said. “I felt like I had to keep up, you know? If I stayed at $5, I thought people would assume my ingredients were worse or something.”

“Exactly. That’s what the local sandwich lobby wanted to happen all along.”

The elevator doors opened. In front of them was a giant War Room like the one in Dr. Strangelove. Sitting at the large circular table was a who’s who of Fast Food mascots. The King from Burger King sitting next to Ronald McDonald. There was Grimace. The Hamburglar. Mayor McCheese. Wendy’s sat next to Arby’s, neither one talking to each other. Taco Bell was laughing with the Colonel from KFC. There was a pirate wearing a Long John Silver’s t-shirt sitting next to Pizza Hut and the toga-clad Little Caesar.

“Is this like a Fast Food Avengers?” Subway asked. “And is that, Applebee’s? What’s he doing here?”

“Applebee’s is one of our most important members,” McDonald’s said. “Technically ‘fast casual.’ But Applebee’s is important because he holds strong to the ‘two for $20’ menu. Five years ago, the Sandwich Lobby tried to roll out an $18 sandwich and people were like, ‘$18 for one sandwich? Are you kidding me, I can get a whole dinner with my wife at Applebee’s for two dollars more. That bought us half a decade.”

McDonald’s and Subway took a seat next to a guy who Subway didn’t initially recognize. This guy stood up and began to address the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you all today. But I don’t. Look, in three days, we will see the debut of the $20 sandwich. And the public is ready for it. The economy. The job market. Everything’s booming. The sandwich lobby will be rolling out a new Reuben sandwich in Chicago. And it’s phenomenal. I’m ashamed to say that I provided the marble rye.”

“Traitor!” Long John Silver’s cried out. He reached for his pistol but was wrestled down by Jack in the Box and the two guys from Sonic.

“Wait, is that,” Subway whispered to McDonald’s.

Subway had never met Bob the Baker. Years ago, Subway just started receiving unmarked deliveries of Italian herb and cheese bread. The same thing happened years ago with McDonald’s (but with the sesame seed buns) and Burger King with those strange long buns used on the original chicken sandwich.

“Also, where’s Chick-Fil-A?” Subway whispered.

“Sunday. She always takes the day off. Plus she’s not even really struggling. It’s crazy to me, she only works six days a week, doesn’t even serve burgers, and she’s happy as a clam.”

“Welp, that about does it,” Arby’s said. He clapped his hands together, started to stand up. “But hey, we had a good run. I’ll order a bunch of those for sale signs, we can start packing things up.”

“You know what, Arby’s, I’m getting sick and tired of this,” Wendy’s said. “Every week with this guy. ‘Oh, woe is me, woe is me, time to wave the white napkin.”

“What do you want me to do, Wendy’s? Who the hell’s gonna order my Reuben over this new All-Star option?”

“Why are you even making Reubens in the first place! Just stick with the roast beef sandwich.”

“We have the meats!”

“You guys are hilarious,” Taco Bell said. Taco Bell was wearing his hat backward, skateboard by his feet. He was scrolling through his phone on an app that I believe the kids are calling “TikTok.”

“Yeah, I’m sure this is all really funny to you,” Arby’s said. “All the kids love you, Taco Bell. You’re young. You’re hip. You got the nacho fries. Enjoy it while it lasts, buddy, cuz all those kids are gonna grow up and they’re gonna turn on you too. Have you ever seen a grown man drinking a Mountain Dew Baja Blast?”

“All the time, brah,” Taco Bell said.

“I’m not your ‘brah.’ And just wait. They’ll toss you aside just like they did to McDonald’s.”

“Alright, now that’s just too far,” Subway said. He couldn’t contain himself, the words just blurted out. McDonald’s immediately put his hand on Subway’s back. It’s alright. It’s alright.

“Well, well, look what the cat dragged in!” Arby’s called out. “Is that? Sorry, I think I might need some new glasses here, cuz I, I think I’m seeing the one and only Subway? Is that you? What are ya, catering the event?”

“Arby’s,” McDonald’s said like a parent warning a child.

“Cuz I seem to remember a Subway who wouldn’t be caught dead being seen with any one of us. Fresh food, not fast food. Oh, oh, definitely not greasy fast food like one of us. Isn’t that right, Subway? You have a change of heart or something? And tell me, how’s Jared doing?”

“Arby’s,” McDonald’s repeated.

“You’re just mad cuz Subway didn’t come to your birthday party,” Wendy’s said. “Nobody came, Subway. Don’t feel about it.”

“Chick-Fil-A was there.”

“Cuz Chick-Fil-A is a saint.”

“And Long John’s was on his way, he just, you know, got lost with the directions.”

“Arrgh, the GPS steered me wrong,” the Long John’s pirate replied.

Little Caesar cleared his throat. He hopped over the table and began to pace around in the middle of the circle.

“Friends, is not experience the teacher of all things?” Little Caesar said. “Listen to us. How can we fight the local sandwich shops if we ourselves tear at each other’s throats? For it is easier to find men who will volunteer to die than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience. Time and time again, what we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also. Nay! Where’s that old spirit we had back in the 90’s? Hmmm? Remember those days! Remember the sheer passion? Veni, vidi, vici! We came. We saw. We conquered! Pizza, pizza.”

“Alright, easy does it, Little Caesar.”

“No, our little friend in the toga is right,” Applebee’s said. Applebee’s voice sounded like Elvis Presley doing a Mickey Mouse impression. “Guys, come on, we’ve been here before. Remember the $18 Philly cheesesteak? We fought that off. And you know what, we can do it again.”

“Oh spare me, Applebee’s,” Arby’s said. “You gonna save us with another parody song? Hit ’em with the riblets? Look, we’ve tried everything. I mean, McDonald’s, no offense, but you’re starting to look desperate out there. All-day breakfast? The international menu? What’s next, year-round McRibs?”

“Oh, please don’t do that to me,” the Colonel called out, holding his stomach.

“And it’s five o’clock,” Arby’s said. “Another wasted day. Good to see we accomplished absolutely nothing. Again.”

Everyone started to stand up from their seats. They all patted McDonald’s on the shoulder on their way out, a show of compassion.

“Hey, don’t let him get to ya,” Ronald McDonald said. “We’ll figure something out. We always do.”

The room emptied out, all but McDonald’s, Subway, and Bob the Baker.

“Burger King was surprisingly quiet,” Bob the Baker said.

“Eh, he’s always just listening,” McDonald’s said. “Plotting his next move.”

The elevator doors opened and in walked Officer Big Mac.

“I have a plan.”

“Big Mac, no,” McDonald’s replied. “We talked about this. Not gonna happen.”

“We have no other choice.”

Back at the Sandwich Lobby

“Billy, I need to show you something.”

Brooklyn Billy’s assistant placed a laptop in front of him. Brooklyn Billy reached for his reading glasses. His assistant had pulled up an article from three months ago titled: “Local Eats: New sandwich shop opens in Old Town.”

“What am I looking at here?” Brooklyn Billy asked.

“Just read it.”

Brooklyn Billy skimmed through until he hit the fifth paragraph.

Donny’s owner, Don Smith, joked that owning his own sandwich shop was the only way to ensure that he couldn’t get fired. 

“I’ve always loved making sandwiches,” Don Smith said. “And my first job, it’s kind of funny, I actually got fired from McDonald’s. I would take way too long making the Big Mac. Making sure the burgers were grilled perfectly, making sure everything looked like one of the posters. I mean, that burger is what got me into sandwiches in the first place. I was preparing it like a museum exhibit. Guess I wasn’t fast enough for fast food.” 

Brooklyn Billy took off his glasses, folded them, put them back in his front pocket. He quietly closed the laptop.

“Alright,” Brooklyn Billy said. “Looks like we need to pay Donny a little visit. Pack my bags for Chicago.”

Originally, I thought this would be a two-parter, but turns out I’m going to need one more post to finish up this story. Tune in next Monday for Part 4/finale where we’ll find out if the $20 sandwich puts an end to fast food chains as we know it. If you’re not into sandwich fiction, or have officially hit your wall for this series, you might just want to come back to the blog in July. You can subscribe to the blog via email by entering yours in the box below. See you next week and hey, maybe get yourself a footlong sub or Big Mac today. It’s really for the good of the country.

And to see what’s going on with my new publishing house, Long Overdue, check out the website here

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