A Sinister Hamburger

In 2002, Burger King introduced a new menu option: the veggie burger. The meat-free hamburger-like sandwich wasn’t intended to convert long-time fans of the Whopper to a different, likely healthier option. Rather, it was primarily to overcome the “veto vote” — when the one vegetarian in your group of friends rejects a dinner option because of a lack of meat-free options. That’s effectively what the fast food giant told the press when it announced the new menu option; per CNN, “Burger King hopes the veggie burger will attract new customers who didn’t previously buy food at the store because there wasn’t anything on the menu that appealed to them.”

It was a shrewd move by Burger King, as evidenced in part by the fact that the veggie burger is still on the menu. When you’re competing against McDonald’s and others for business, you can’t afford to overlook even a small percentage of the population — even if it means creating an option just for them. And vegetarians aren’t the only target. If you really want to get around the veto vote, you also need to cater to the 10% of the population which is left-handed.

That’s exactly what Burger King did in the spring of 1998. Via a full-page ad in USA Today, seen below, they introduced the Left-Handed Whopper.

If you can’t make out the text, don’t worry — it’s just a regular Whopper, spun 180° and tilted a bit to account for the how one orients their arm/wrist when eating a sandwich. (And yes, a hamburger is a sandwich.) But the ingredients are, otherwise, the same.

What’s going on here? Take a look at the date in the upper-right of the advertisement. It reads “Wednesday, April 1, 1998.” This was an April Fool’s Day prank.

And it turned out to be a very good one. According to the Museum of Hoaxes, an online repository of some of the best pranks in recent history, Burger King followed up the ad with a press release the next day. Per that release, a few thousand lefties came into BK franchises to request their special hamburger. And they weren’t alone — the press release also noted that “many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.” Thankfully, Burger King was able to accommodate that request by simply re-orienting the product being offered to its original position.

Bonus fact: The title of this is “A Sinister Hamburger.” What makes the burger above “sinister”? There’s nothing particularly evil about it — unless you really don’t like April Fool’s jokes. But the word “sinister” itself has a lot to do with lefties. The Latin word “sinister” didn’t mean “evil” — it meant “left,” as in “left-handed.” But because of a historical bias against lefties, the term took on a negative connotation and, later, a negative denotation as well. (The word “left” has a similar history; it comes from the Old English term “lyft,” meaning “weak,” because the left side of the body, for most of us, is our weaker side.)

From the Archives: Burger Math: One-third is more than one-quarter — unless you’re looking to buy a hamburger. No, wait, that shouldn’t matter.