You can’t patent a recipe—which presents a bit of a problem in the culinary world. Come up with some clever food idea, and before you’ve even been noticed by Pete Wells, the copycats and counterfeiters will have already swooped in. They’re looking to quickly knock-off your gastronomical genius, mass-producing much more of your foodie-friendly creation than you ever could, and almost certainly charging less than is seemingly feasible. The most likely culprit of this edible swagger-jacking? Giant fast-food chains.
To a certain extent, you can’t blame these foodstuff Fortune 500s. Most of today’s viral noshing items are coming from small, single-location purveyors in just one city. Many of them likewise necessitate lining up early in the morning to even nab, say, a single Cronut or ramen burger. Don’t want to queue up or can’t afford a flight to, say, Nashville? Then you’re out of luck in ever getting to try hot chicken or bagel bombs, or whatever the new hotness is.
But if you’re a food-obsessive living in Oklahoma, Iowa, or Alaska, you might actually be thankful that the international chain parked in your mall’s food court has suddenly given you access to an item you’ve for so long clog your Instagram feed. Of course, you realize the bone broth some flunky is ladeling into a Panera-branded bowl is not as good as what some hipster is serving in the East Village; that it’s also a pathetic attempt to cash in on a scorching-hot trend. But does that even matter to most Americans?
Clearly not, as some of the following swagger-jacked items have proven to be massive hits for the corporate behemoths that released them in the past few years, with many going from special limited-time releases to mainstay menu items. Even many of the original creators don’t seem to care all that much—perhaps because they don’t think anything can ever top their original idea.
“Ramen Burger is not just a burger, it’s a global brand,” a representative for The Original Ramen Burger wrote for Munchies upon being swagger-jacked by a chain. “Many restaurants from the corner ramen shop to national burger chains have tried to imitate it, but have failed. Ramen Burger is an embodiment of Keizo (Shimamoto)’s vision and passion, which can never be replicated.”
Maybe the vision and passion aren’t getting replicated, but diners seem more than willing to take the bait of fast-food conglomerates. To catch you up to speed—and keep you cognizant of these food's true origins—here are some blatant examples of swagger jacking.