Many “Rick and Morty” fans got a little too lost in the sauce this past week.
It all started in 1998, when big-name fast food company McDonald’s launched a promotional Szechuan Chicken McNugget sauce to publicize the release of the Disney film “Mulan”.
Rick, a genius mad-scientist and one of the titular characters of the show “Rick and Morty,” expresses in the first episode of the most recent season his affinity for this retired sauce, and laments that he can only consume it in his memories.
At the end of the episode, Rick reveals to his grandson, Morty, that he would do anything to get the sauce, even if it takes him nine seasons to do so.
The show has garnered a huge cult following, and dedicated viewers used social media to capture the attention of McDonald’s executives, pleading them for the return of the Szechuan sauce on Rick’s behalf.
This incident isn’t the first time that a fictional show has changed the restaurant industry. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company opened after the release of 1994 film “Forrest Gump”, and 200 Luke’s Diners popped up around the country last year to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Gilmore Girls.
On Oct. 1, 2017, McDonald’s tweeted that the Szechuan sauce would be brought back on Oct. 7 for one day only at limited store locations.
When the anticipated day came, fans of the show all over the country lined up outside of the selected McDonald’s locations, waiting eagerly for an opportunity to finally try the infamous sauce.
The McDonald’s located in University District was one of the few stores in Washington state that was sent these special sauce packets.
The department manager in the University District branch, who wished to remain anonymous, said that, although she had never watched “Rick and Morty” before, she was excited that the store was doing this for the fans.
“For me, I wasn’t as excited about it,” she said. “It was more a surprise that we were getting it because I know that it was a big deal that we were getting [the sauce] back for a lot of fans.”
The store was shipped only 40 individual packets, which is less than a normal case of sauce. During shipping, two of the packets were destroyed, which made for an extraordinarily limited number of sauces.
Despite the finite amount available, the hundreds of customers anticipating to get a taste were sympathetic to the position the store and its workers were in.
“One of our managers did a very good job of communicating the situation to those waiting in line,” the manager said. “People were very nice and friendly to him, and they completely understood. I think most of the frustration was that we had only been shipped 40 packets. So people actually kept buying food, even if they weren’t getting any posters or Szechuan sauce.”
Unfortunately, this was not the case for every “Rick and Morty” fan’s experience with the limited amount of individual sauce packets. Around the country, many were outraged with the insufficient numbers.
Jillian Andreottola, a Campion Hall Resident Assistant, made the trip to the McDonald’s in University District expecting to try the sauce. She was able to secure a spot close the front of the line with her friends. Once they heard that the store only had 38 packets and was allotting one per customer, they decided it was not worth it.
“Even though we were not far from the front, [the line was] still way over thirty-eight,” says Andreottola. “We just ate lunch there and then left. We figured at that point, that it is just a sauce.”
Andreottola, based off a thread on Reddit, believes that McDonald’s intentionally restricted the number of stores and sauce packets available as a viral marketing tool.
“Their marketing is not something to underestimate,” Andreottola claims. “It’s not far-fetched to think that they took advantage of how things go viral. [The sauce] was a joke on the show, but McDonald’s did get free promotion from it.”
Andreottola suspects that this promotion will still be successful because the incident has created talk amongst both fans and non-fans
“In the end, McDonald’s is gonna make their dollar because the fans are still gonna want to try the sauce, and then the people who weren’t fans of the show are suddenly [wanting to try it too],” Andreottola said.
Second-year nursing major Samuel Branch, an avid viewer of the show, said that he was entirely unhappy about the reproduction of the sauce. He complained that the corporate gimmick went completely against the essence of the show.
“[The show is] not about consumerism; it’s about the opposite,” remarks Branch. “It’s about making fun of people who buy into consumerism, making fun of society and not buying into the social constructs.”
While the reproduction of the sauce was controversial, many fans still seem excited to hear that McDonald’s will be bringing back the sauce again in the winter.
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