October 22, 2009

Arby's Roast Beef Patty Melt for $5.01 ... kind of

I picked up a $5.01 Arby's Roast Beef Patty Melt meal Tuesday, and while the sandwich is tasty, I have to say the pricing isn't worth a red cent.

Hopefully you've seen Arby's "Worth Every Penny" marketing blitz, or that statement didn't make much sense to you. Basically the hot lunchmeat chain rolled out combos with five different sandwiches and decided to charge $5.01 for each one.

You can get a "Regular Roast Beef" sandwich, a Roast Beef Gyro, a Roast Beef Patty Melt, French Dip & Swiss or a Roast Chicken Ranch. Each comes with your standard drink and curly fries accompaniments. Each is curiously priced a penny over $5.01.

Except if you live in a state that charges tax on restaurants, it's going to cost more. In Pennsylvania it costs 30 cents more, which was a huge disappointment to me as I approached the counter with $5.01 in hand. My five dollar bill and shiny copper coin left me 30 Abe Lincolns short! Fortunately the cashier was patient enough to wait for me to sheepishly dig out my wallet and yank out a $10 bill.

Yes, it was foolish of me to not read the fine print in the advertisements about tax or remember that my $5 Subway Footlong actually costs $5.30. But wouldn't it be nice if the franchises worked out a pricing system that would make the meal cost $5.01 after tax? I'm no math whiz, but I think such pricing would be possible a day locked in the manager's office with a slide rule and the help of a few employees counting on their fingers and toes.

Fortunately eating the sandwich wasn't as upsetting as paying for it.

Even saddled with post-$10-bill coin-filled pockets and the blues of my checkout embarrassment, I enjoyed my meal. Roast beef, toasted sourdough bread, red onions, Thousand Island Dressing -- what's not to like? It is a good thing Arby's doesn't advertise "crispy toasted sourdough bread," though, because it was more on the chewy side. Still, chewiness is not a bad thing when it comes to sourdough, as long as your not expecting to hear a crunch when you bite in.

And those red onions complimented the meal. I've droned on before about how they put that extra "oomph" into fast food flavors, so I won't bore you now. Just know the onions do it again.

The Thousand Island Dressing was a nice touch, too. It wasn't overpowering yet offered the perfect compliment of creaminess and just a hint of spice -- the flavor glue keeping the tastes of the sandwich together. Unfortunately it wasn't a physical glue, and served lubricated surfaces where roast beef met sourdough. You need big hands to keep this sandwich together.

The sandwich is worth trying, even if it does require a little more chump change than expected. Pricing issues and a slight lack of originality keep it from pulling down a perfect score, but it nets a very good four sporks out of five.

It seems coincidence has left me reviewing a lot of foods that deserve four spork ratings lately. Penny for your thoughts on that.

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