The fast-food giant rarely makes menu changes.
Since the pandemic, McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report has mostly relied on gimmicks and celebrity tie-ins.
Instead of adding new burgers or other menu items, the company has offered its version of menu hacks and has shared the favorite orders of a variety of famous people. The chain also brought back Szechuan sauce — a gimmick that got a lot of attention when very few people actually even got their hands on some.
Essentially, McDonald’s tried to have a series of promotions that didn’t actually require any work from its kitchen.
Even its various secret menu/menu hacks promotions simply showed customers how to order those items. If, for example, you ordered an Apple Pie McFlurry, you were handed an apple pie and a vanilla McFlurry. The chain did not mix the two for you.
That’s both smart and lazy, but it was the opposite of innovation.
Now, the chain has been promoting a fake McRib farewell tour. Nobody believes the sandwich is going anywhere, but the commercials say that the popular limited-time offer won’t be back (even though the news release makes clear that it almost certainly will).
Now, however, McDonald’s finally has both a new burger and a new McFlurry flavor that it’s adding nationwide.
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McDonald’s Bets Big on Bacon, Just Like Wendy’s
Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Wendy’s Company (The) Report recently brought back its Pretzel Bacon Pub sandwich as well as Pretzel Pub fries, and it soon plans to offer a Peppermint Frosty.
The No. 2 U.S. burger chain has pioneered the idea that bacon solves everything. With its flagship Baconator leading the way, Wendy’s has a variety of limited-time offers providing bacon plus a little twist.
That’s more or less what McDonald’s is doing with its latest special offer, the Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese, which will join its menu nationwide on Nov. 21.
“The Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese features a 100% fresh beef quarter-pound patty cooked right when you order, so it’s hot and juicy every time,” the chain said in a news release.
“It’s topped with two slices of melty American cheese, thick-cut Applewood Smoked bacon, fresh Roma tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and smoky sauce — and it’s all served on a toasted sesame seed bun for a savory finish. For double the fun, try the Double Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese.”
McDonald’s will also counter another Wendy’s move — the addition of a peppermint version of its iconic Frosty — with a new take on the McFlurry.
“The Oreo Fudge McFlurry blends McDonald’s classic, creamy vanilla soft serve with hot fudge topping and Oreo cookie pieces for a perfect sweet treat combination,” the company said.
McDonald’s Has Kept Things Simple
While its rivals have focused on menu changes, McDonald’s has focused on execution and building its digital user base. Chief Executive Chris Kempczinski focused on this point during the chain’s third-quarter-earnings call.
“Our foresight to double down on digital and delivery to execute culturally relevant marketing campaigns across the world to highlight our core menu capabilities and to invest in our asset base is really paying off,” the executive said.
“Our size, scale, and financial results put us in an advantaged position as we head into more volatile times, and we will lean into the strengths of the system.”
That’s not as sexy as adding new menu items every few weeks, but it’s a recipe that has worked for the fast-food giant. The key has been the chain’s focus on driving customers to its digital platform.
“Digital is a primary driver to improve the customer experience, reduce complexity and drive profitability,” the CEO said. “In our top six markets, it now represents over one-third of systemwide sales, fueled by over 43 million active customers on our app in the third quarter.
“In the U.S. our digital business is powered by over 25 million active customers driven through MyMcDonald’s Rewards. Our loyalty program is driving growth and exceeding expectations.”