In an effort to turn around years of sliding sales and profits, McDonald’s has announced a stream of new initiatives in the past couple of months — some big, some small and some questionable, like the new lobster roll being introduced in New England.
For the first time in at least 45 years, McDonald’s is closing more restaurants in the U.S. than it opens. Below are the ramped up efforts the fast food chain is making to revamp itself.
Bigger, Better Burgers: The quarter pounder is about to get just a little bit heavier. The fast food chain plans on enlarging the current 4-ounce burger, before cooking, to 4.25 ounces. The larger patties will retain more moisture while being grilled, resulting in a juicier burger. The patty is also undergoing a makeover — the chain will add new assembly procedures to make the searing from the grill more visible. The company plans on rolling out the new burger this month.
All-Day Breakfast: Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day for McDonald’s. The morning meal already accounts for 25 percent of the company’s sales and the company sells more breakfast meals than any other chain. Looking to capitalize on that success, McDonald’s began testing all-day breakfast in 97 restaurants in the San Diego-area in April. After initial success, the experiment is now underway in 12 Mississippi locations and will be introduced in 132 Nashville, Tenn. locations this month.
The breakfast strategy has some risks, though, since most restaurants already have constrained grill and prep space, meaning that all-day breakfast options might lead to slower service during lunch and dinner hours. Also, some consumers might opt for cheaper breakfast options instead of a pricier burger, causing sales to decline even more. Restaurants in the San Diego trial had to cut some popular breakfast items, such as McGriddles and biscuit sandwiches, after 10:30 am.
Kale. Yes, Kale: As important as breakfast is, McDonald’s is also looking beyond the Egg McMuffin by testing a new breakfast bowl full of kale, spinach, turkey sausage and egg whites. The $3.99 bowl is available in nine locations in Southern California. Bowl dishes have become extremely popular thanks to restaurants like Chipotle, and kale has taken on “superfood” status as part of a greater consumer push for healthier food options.
Upscale Terminology, and Ingredients to (Sort of) Match: Kale isn’t the only way McDonald’s is going a bit more upscale. In April, the company rolled out the “Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich.” The menu item is notable for more than just a fancier-sounding name. It is made with chicken that is free of sodium phosphates, replaced by vegetable starch to still keep the meat moist. The new recipe also doesn’t use maltodextrin, used to increase browning or as a carrier for seasoning. In addition, the chicken will be cooked with a blend of olive oil, canola oil and herb seasoning instead of liquid margarine. The new chicken recipe will also be featured in existing sandwiches, wraps and salads.
The Next Starbucks? In at least one area of the country, McDonalds is offering flavored hot coffee for the first time. Flavors include brewed Caramel, Hazelnut and French Vanilla. While the fast food chain has served flavored ice McCafé coffees since 2007, this is the first time a hot option is being offered. The company hasn’t confirmed if the test will expand to other markets. Coffee has become a multi-billion-dollar business for McDonald’s, so even a small change like this could make a decent-sized difference.
It’s Not the McRib: One McDonald’s market is taking matters onto its own grill and has started offering a new premium pulled pork sandwich. A Twitter post from McDonald’s of Northern Indiana announced the new menu option, and the sandwich has been spotted at a McDonald’s in Butler, Ind. McDonalds hasn’t commented on the new sandwich and it’s unclear if it will be offered at other restaurant outlets.
A Step Up for the Dollar Menu: In southeastern Wisconsin, 125 McDonald’s restaurants reportedly began testing a new Lovin’ Value Menu, which includes “mini meals” featuring favorites such as the cheeseburger and the McChicken sandwich as well as a new “Signature Burger” with two patties, white cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a Dijon mustard sauce. A new addition to menu is an order of three breaded mozzarella sticks, served with hot marinara sauce, available for $1. It’s not a coincidence that the item is making its debut in cheese-centric Wisconsin.
They’ll Warm Your Buns: The restaurant has committed to toasting its burger buns five seconds longer, which will make the bread 15 degrees warmer. Will warmer buns mean hotter sales?
McMarketing: You’ve probably seen the new look Hamburglar and Ronald McDonald. But the fast food chain is making other changes to its marketing push, too. In an attempt to become a “modern, progressive burger company,” it recently hired the former chief marketing officer for Bacardi to be its global chief marketing officer and brought in former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as global chief communications officer.
The fast food chain has also become one of the first businesses to partner with Snapchat, which launched McDonald’s filters — a cheeseburger, fries and purple heart with the company logo and the text “Lovin’ Summer Fun.” The promotion could prove beneficial for both companies, as an advertisement for the restaurant that will be shared among users’ Snapchat contacts and as a revenue source for Snapchat, which is now cautiously entering the advertising world.
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