See photos from Wendy’s and McDonald’s burger size lawsuit — Quartz

Would you prefer it?

SUBMISSION OF A CLAIM

Expectations from Wendy’s Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger.

Or that?

SUBMISSION OF A CLAIM

The reality of Wendy’s Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger.

They are the same, according to Wendy.

A 35-page class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York alleges that Wendy’s exaggerates the thickness of its beef patties and the amount of burger toppings it uses in its ads. It also claims that McDonald’s uses undercooked patties in advertisements to make them appear larger than they actually are. The lawsuit cites a McDonald’s ad in which a beef patty goes all the way to the rim of a bun and is compared to a real burger where there isn’t one.

The lawsuit alleges that the beef patties in the ad are not fully cooked, making the burgers appear about 15-20% larger than those served to customers.

The lawsuit states that many reviewers have criticized Wendy’s for serving meals that are smaller than advertised, with a review of Wendy’s Dave’s Single burger saying “…it costs a dollar…it’s not a five dollar burger.”

No wonder fast food ads portray hamburgers and fries in an idealized way. But comparing images from a lawsuit showing a promised product versus actual fast food can be the strongest argument that, at least in this case, there is no truth in the ad.

Legality of food advertising

This is not the first lawsuit accusing restaurants of misleading customers with advertising. In March, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Burger King in federal court in Florida alleging that the fast food giant inflated the size of its hamburgers by 35% in advertising. There have also been lawsuits over the lack of real strawberries in strawberry pies, fudge in Keebler cookies, and the origin of the vanilla flavor in A&W Root Beer.

When it comes to the legality of restaurant ads, customers seeing food look different from the ad won’t raise the same concern from regulators as a claim that a product can reduce disease risk, such as Federal Trade Commission spokesperson Betsy . Lordan told CNBC in 2014.

In an interview with NPR, Bonnie Patten, executive director of the consumer advocacy group, said these lawsuits usually end up with the termination of the case by the judge or with a settlement agreement. In other words, companies often leave with little to no change. She added that the settlement could also be beneficial for the plaintiff’s attorney, who typically takes home a quarter to a third of the amount.

It is not uncommon to see counterfeit food

The lawsuit also alleges that McDonald’s and Wendy’s food stylists said they were cheating customers.

Food styling is a real business, and using undercooked meat in advertisements is just one of the tricks stylists use to make food prettier. But as food trends shifted towards a more natural look, the exaggeration has lessened. Food stacking is also practical and designed to preserve food that is destined to be exposed to hot light for long hours. The lawsuit mentions a food stylist who prefers to use undercooked pies because “[t]a hat provides a big, plump patty, while fully cooked burgers tend to shrink and look less appetizing.”

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