ATLANTA—During a press event at Arby's headquarters last week, the company officially launched its new $2.99 Grab-N-Go Meal Deal, which allows patrons to go behind the counter at any franchise location and grab as much roast beef as they can with their bare hands.

"We're thrilled to announce an exciting new dining option that lets customers step right into our kitchen and dig hands-first into our famous slow-roasted beef," spokesman Gavin Milne said while standing in front of a cardboard cutout that depicted Oven Mitt—the Arby's mascot—cupping a steaming mound of beef slices. "As soon as we ring up your transaction, you have 15 seconds to grab all the meat you can carry, and however much you manage to bring back across the counter is yours to eat—all for under $3! Who could resist?"

"Or why not try our Cheesy Grab-N-Go Meal Deal for just 75 cents more, and we'll let you use one of your hands to scoop as much melted cheese as you'd like from our Bottomless Cheddar Trough," Milne continued. "It's that same Arby's taste you love, but piled high in your own two hands."

According to Milne, Grab-N-Go customers will be allowed to dunk their beef-crammed fists into any of several large pails of condiments, including barbecue, ranch, and the chain's signature Horsey Sauce, free of charge.

For an extra dollar, company sources confirmed, patrons will be able to select the Arby's "Max" option, which allows them to plunge right into a juicy roast beef pile with their open mouths and ingest as much as they can within the 15-second time limit.

"Letting people sprint around the counter and take as much roast beef as they are physically able to pick up was really the next logical step in our business model," CEO Hala Moddelmog said. "We've found most Arby's customers would rather not hassle with vegetables, buns, or trays. They just want beef, and they want it fast, fresh, and wadded up in their mouths.

Meal Deal participants reportedly will be required to keep their pockets turned inside out at all times, and won't be allowed to carry items that could be used to hoard extra meat, such as hats, cargo pants, or pocketbooks. Patrons will also be barred from tucking in their shirts and dumping roast beef down their collars, which the company acknowledged had been a recurring problem in its Dallas and Memphis test markets.

Additionally, officials emphasized that customers may not pick up beef that spills onto the floor, as any such droppings remain the property of Arby's and will be promptly returned to the meat pile.

Despite these restrictions, Grab-N-Go appears to have generated instant popularity. At Arby's locations nationwide, sources re­ported similar scenes of long lines, frantic scrambles over beef-laden steam trays, and scores of out-of-breath patrons cradling heaps of meat against their chests.

"I've come here every day since they started this," said Kansas City customer Roy Arnold, 41, as he enjoyed two dripping handfuls of roast beef while standing over one of the numerous garbage cans that have replaced tables at most Arby's locations. "After a few times through, you really get the hang of how to use your chin and hands together to keep a big mound from falling over."

"Lots of times, I'll grab a couple handfuls and put them in the glove compartment so I have something to munch on while I'm driving," Arnold added. "Then I fill my cup holder with Horsey Sauce so I can just dip the beef in there. It's really good."

While most patrons lauded the Meal Deal, many noted that the behind-the-counter scrum for roast beef could become chaotic and intense, and that it was essential to be aggressive and defend one's position during the 15-second free-for-all.

"There's a lot of shoving and clawing, and you have to watch out for people trying to steal the meat right out of your hands," Fresno, CA resident Joanne Hogan said. "But as long as you hold your ground, it's really an unbeatable deal. See? Just look at all this beef I got!"

In the wake of Arby's immediate and overwhelming success, other fast food chains are reportedly rushing to debut their own self-serve dining options. Sources confirmed that for $1.85, Dairy Queen has begun allowing patrons to place their mouths on the soft-serve nozzle and consume as much as they can before they need to take a breath.

However, a similar deal at Popeyes was halted recently after the FDA determined the health of the restaurant's clientele would be gravely endangered by the physical activity of walking behind the counter, bending forward, and grasping a piece of fried chicken.