This Facebook post by 9gag.com makes the claim that customers of A&W thought that A&W's 1/3 pound burgers weighed less than McDonald's 1/4 pound burgers, and preferred to buy the McDonald's burgers due to them thinking that a 1/4 pound burger has more meat than a 1/3 pound burger.

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Was there ever such a customer focus group held by A&W, and did it reach the result described in the image?


The source of this image is an article in NY Times Magazine, the text of which (about a quarter down the page) is quoted exactly.

Kevin Drum, a blogger for MotherJones, tried to track down the source of this anecdote. He found a tweet by the article's author, Elizabeth Green, saying that she got it from "Threshold Resistance", the memoirs of Alfred Taubman, then-owner of A&W.

Reproducing the quote from that book that's on the MJ site:

Well, it turned out that customers preferred the taste of our fresh beef over traditional fast-food hockey pucks. Hands down, we had a better product. But there was a serious problem. More than half of the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. "Why," they asked, "should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald's? You're overcharging us." Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!

Since any actual data on the study performed is probably private data of A&W and the Yankelovich research group, we'll probably have to take Taubman at his word here.

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    This is as far as my research got too. I would take issue with Taubman's claim that "customers preferred the taste of our fresh beef over traditional fast-food hockey pucks." Most companies claim to have a superior product, and without reading his book, we can't know how this conclusion was reached. I imagine any "study" done by A&W is going to favor A&W. – Will Aug 13 '15 at 18:11
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    You'd think they'd come out with a 1/5th burger. – Brian M. Hunt Aug 13 '15 at 19:59
  • @BrianM.Hunt The McD's regular burger is a sixth pound patty. Obviously, they didn't have this problem when they dubbed their larger burger "the quarter pounder". I think Taubman is passing the buck. The product probably failed for legitimate business reasons. McD's is a tough competitor. – fredsbend Apr 2 at 20:13

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