year in review

The Year Celeb Meal Deals Got Weird

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Dunkin’, Sweetgreen, Wingstop, McDonald’s, Grubhub

In 2021, McDonald’s never could have predicted the relentless onslaught of celebrity endorsement deals it would inspire after tapping Travis Scott to be the first famous person to curate a meal for the fast-food empire since Michael Jordan. But once that idea was planted in the cultural Zeitgeist, there was no getting that capitalist genie back in its Happy Meal bottle. For the rest of us, it suddenly seemed impossible to make a purchase from a fast-food chain that wasn’t formally authorized by someone of note, with partnerships ranging from Megan Thee Stallion’s Hottie Sauce at Popeyes to the deeply millennial burrito born of Chipotle’s collaboration with Twenty One Pilots.

While that era may have reintroduced us to the concept of the celeb-sanctioned food product, 2023 has been the year that meal deals officially took a very weird turn. This marketing pivot seems to be a direct response to yet another McDonald’s partnership, this time Cardi B and Offset’s very generic date-night-inspired combo that left fans feeling a little cold. In the aftermath of that launch, Mickey D’s competitors seem to have taken note that these types of brand partnerships have gotten increasingly out of pocket. Whether that means a hip-hopera dedicated to the topic of fast-food delivery or a nude photo shoot done atop a bed of lettuce, these stars understand that a simple product recommendation is no longer enough to move the needle.

In order to take the guesswork out of which 2023 celebrity meal deals are actually worth your while, I’ve gone ahead and ranked them from worst to best based on creativity, brand synergy, and, of course, just how damn tasty all these foodstuffs actually are. Bon appétit!

Cardi B and Offset for McDonald’s

Photo: McDonald’s USA, LLC

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Cardi B and Offset announced during the Super Bowl that they had teamed up with McDonald’s to create a meal-deal doubleheader, a combination of fast-food menu items that felt so nonspecific to the duo it left many fans wondering if the first couple of rap had actually participated in selecting them at all. The deal included a classic cheeseburger with a side of barbecue sauce, a large Coke, a quarter pounder with cheese, a large fry, a large Hi-C Orange Lavaburst, and an apple pie to share. A solid order overall, but it comes in last place in this ranking for an obvious lack of originality.

Latto for Wingstop

Photo: Wingstop Restaurants Inc.

Much like the Cardi and Offset meal, Latto’s collaboration with Wingstop ranks low on this list only for the lack of novelty in the meal itself. Riffing off the name of her studio album, 777, the meal features 21 classic wings, two dips, and one large fry. Latto did, however, take this endorsement one step further by coming up with her own original flavor, the “Lemon Herb Remix,” a dry rub composed of “zesty lemon, aromatic herbs, and savory garlic.” Sounds delicious, though it does seem odd that a professional chicken purveyor had never thought to come up with this flavor profile before. With ideas like this, Wingstop might want to consider adding Latto to its board of creative directors full time.

Latto and Christina Aguilera for Grubhub

Okay, so this one is not technically a fast-food meal, but anything that gets these two pop powerhouses to join forces on some new music seems well worth the advertorial investment. Latto and Christina Aguilera teamed up to create a hip-hopera promoting Menulog, an Australia- and New Zealand–based food-delivery service owned by Grubhub. I don’t know what either of these stars has to do with ordering takeout Down Under, but I’m just glad someone out there in the marketing world believes as strongly as I do that Beyoncé’s 2001 MTV musical Carmen is overdue for a sequel.

Latto for Halls

Photo: HALLS

Clearly Latto has some Big Brand Energy, as her collaboration with Halls marks her third appearance on this year’s list. The rapper also must have a thing for citrus, endorsing yet another lemon-flavored product — Halls’s honey-lemon cough-drop share jar. But Latto didn’t just throw her support behind this cold-and-flu-season classic; she also provided some inspirational words of wisdom to go on the lozenge wrappers, including sage advice such as “keep your crown on” and “belief in relief.” Personally, I would find cough drops printed with some of Latto’s lyrics, like “Bad bitch, I could be your fantasy,” to be a little more motivational, but Halls is definitely on the right track here.

Reneé Rapp for Sweetgreen

While the partnership between this extremely pricey salad slinger and the star of Mean Girls the Musical doesn’t make a whole lot of intuitive sense from a branding perspective, it ranks high on this list because not only do I fully believe this is a salad Rapp eats on the regular, but the campaign photos for its release are also outstandingly bizarre. The promotional images include Rapp wearing a Sweetgreen bag as a minidress, bathing nude in a bowl of her own chopped salad, and drinking out of a straw shoved straight into a vat of dressing. As for the bowl itself, the salad contains roasted tofu, cilantro, cucumbers, red onions, shredded cabbage, spicy broccoli, and tomatoes on a spring-mix bed all covered in spicy-cashew dressing. And honestly, anything doused in enough spicy-cashew dressing gets a 10/10 in my book.

Ben Affleck and Ice Spice and Martha Stewart for Dunkin’

To celebrate its first ever Super Bowl ad, Dunkin’ finally gave the people what we’ve been clamoring for, enlisting its iced coffee’s No. 1 fan, Ben Affleck, to work a shift at the drive-through window of the Medford, Massachusetts, location. The commercial cameo was such a hit on social media Dunkin’ brought Ben back for a second go-around, this time pairing him with unlikely, yet equally charming, counterpart Ice Spice to officially ring in fall. The actor helped the “Barbie World” rapper kick off pumpkin-spice season with the launch of her Ice Spice Munchkins drink made of pumpkin donut holes blended together with frozen Dunkin’ coffee. Not only is this a winning combination of famous people, but the drink is actually extremely tasty as well, even if a large one does weigh in with enough grams of sugar to send you into a diabetic coma.

And just when you thought Dunkin’ couldn’t sweeten the deal any more, the doughnut shop announced this week that it’s partnering with legendary homemaker Martha Stewart to release a martini shaker, martini glasses, and an official Dunkintini recipe so you can get tipsy this holiday season in style. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.

Snoop Dogg for Jack in the Box

Photo: Youtube

While all of the above did an excellent job leveraging fame for sales, the title of best celebrity meal deal of 2023 can only go to one brand endorsement contract. And this year that honor undeniably belongs to the “Dogg in tha Box” restaurant takeover. Jack in the Box launched its partnership with Snoop Dogg by “Snoopifying” its Inglewood, California, location with a menu featuring “Snizzacks” and “Sidez,” including “Curleez,” “Jalepenizzle Poppers,” and “Bizurgers” like the “Tasty Motherclucker.” The fast-food chain didn’t stop there; it also asked Snoop to drop it like it’s hot on a “Munchie Meal” of his very own, composed of a spicy “sauced and loaded” chicken sandwich, a classic taco, medium curly fries, a baked brownie, and a Sprite. And if there’s any person on this planet I would trust to curate the perfect blend of 420-friendly snacks, it’s undoubtedly a man who has spent the last 40 years blazed out of his mind, the D-O-double G.

The Year Celeb Meal Deals Got Weird