Was Burger King's 'Left-Handed Whopper' A Hoax?

News in the fast-food industry flies across the globe, particularly among brand devotees. From "secret menus" to product releases and seasonal surprises, it's all about going the extra mile for customers. Some customers might have felt like that effort soared when Burger King announced a major accommodation to left-handed diners.

It all started in 1998 with a full-page ad in the print version of USA TODAY. Burger King advertised a new creation: the Left-Handed Whopper, a nod to the million-plus diners frequenting the fast-food chain on a regular basis, according to TIME. Burger King explained how the sandwich was identical to the original Whopper except for ingredient placement. Finally, the company was acknowledging the neglected left-handed Americans who sadly struggled with the Whopper-eating experience. No more.

The statement created quite a stir, and some consumers might have taken the news as straightforward. After all, many culinary utensils cater to lefties, including knives, scissors, can openers, and oven mitts, notes The Left Handed Store. On Left-Handers Day in 2019, Longhorn Steakhouse even posted a Facebook video revealing new steak knives in which the serrated edges are flipped to prevent left-handed diners from having to cut with their right hands.

With an estimated 10% of America's population identifying as left-handed, per Healthline, it's smart business to accommodate them when feasible. But was the Left-Handed Whopper genuine or a hoax? With smartphones still not in everyday use, fact-checking ability was more limited then. But the world soon discovered the truth.

Out in left field

The full-page newspaper ad appeared on April 1, 1998, detailing how Burger King customers could now order the Left-Handed Whopper, a left-centric Whopper incarnation in which condiments had been rotated 180 degrees. This evened the playing field for lefty customers previously forced into right-handed eating methods. The advertisement, re-posted now by the Museum of Hoaxes, claimed the rotated compilation allowed better bun grip to maximize taste, and the lower bun realignment compensated for the weight shift. Strategic placement of sesame seeds on the adapted bun prevented seed loss when eating with the left hand. All this was for southpaws to "have it their way." If it was a hoax, it was a good one.

The next day, a follow-up press statement noted thousands of orders for the Left-Handed Whopper and some backlash from right-handers insisting on receiving the original right-handed Whopper. Ambidextrous eaters presumably remained neutral, since the original Burger King ad included an asterisked notice: "Ambidextrous consumers will not be affected by changes." Was it all just a prank or ill-fated good intention?

Remember that a hamburger is inherently round and held with both hands; it was April Fools' Day, and the sandwich is named "Whopper," a word defined by Merriam-Webster as an extravagant untruth. So yes, the Left-Handed Whopper was a good-natured hoax. And it wasn't Burger King's only go at April Fools' shenanigans. In 2017, CNET highlighted a Burger King France video touting its "Whopper Toothpaste."