Bottom-line menu

Associated Press

OAK BROOK, Ill. – You won’t find McPizza or Arch Deluxe, two forgettable flops from the past, on the grill in test kitchens at McDonald’s corporate headquarters.

But almost anything else is possible these days, a reflection of the menu shake-up under way at the hamburger giant’s 12,700 U.S. restaurants following years of sluggish results from new products.

Burritos, bratwurst, brownie sundaes, Southern breakfast biscuits – all have emerged recently from 1 McDonald’s Plaza for testing – and more surprises are being cooked up for release soon.

Some could become nationwide staples; others will be strictly regional items or wind up on the food obituary list along with the McLean burger and Big Xtra, the latest casualty.

Regardless of the fate of these dishes, industry experts say the push to innovate is probably overdue as McDonald’s tries to improve slowing profit growth in the United States.

This is still your father’s McDonald’s, and founder Ray Kroc’s too – Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish and its trademark fries will remain core items for the world’s largest restaurant chain.

But the fast-food bastion is doing much more experimenting than before.

“We have seven or eight items that are almost icons,” said Tom Ryan, a senior vice president who heads McDonald’s U.S. menu management. “The point isn’t that these are bad or outdated, it’s that we could use a few more.”

Besides new products introduced at select McDonald’s – including the Grilled McVeggie sandwich, three new chicken sandwiches, Fruit ‘N’ Yogurt Parfait, McFlurry dessert and others – another 40-odd ideas are in various stages of testing, he said.

Ryan said success of such new products as breakfast bagel sandwiches and McShaker salads in particular confirms the company’s view of its menu as “an untapped engine of growth.”

It hasn’t always been so.

“McDonald’s has had very little in the way of new products in the past decade – at least new products that have worked,” said analyst Joseph Buckley, who follows the restaurant industry for Bear Stearns. “Other companies have been more aggressive.”

Archrival Burger King developed a new french fry and a Big Mac clone, the Big King, among other items. Wendy’s has scored with a series of limited-time products, the latest the Mozzarella Chicken Supreme sandwich.

Taco Bell has introduced the gordita, the chalupa and new fresh-fried nacho chips, and Pizza Hut and KFC have had a steady stream of new items. All three are owned by Tricon Restaurants International.

“You can be successful without new products, with superior execution,” said Buckley. “But new products are a way to create interest in the brand … a nice add-on to drive sales with.”

First came the bagel sandwich, which Buckley calls McDonald’s best new product in a decade. It began regionally and went nationwide in the spring.

The completed installation of the Made For You cooking system in U.S. restaurants this year enabled the company to quicken its pace of new product introductions – a move that could boost profits and help McDonald’s shake a protracted stock slump. The customized system makes preparing products much faster.

McDonald’s officials say they don’t expect the emergence of a new blockbuster, suggesting it may be impossible in a market that’s much bigger and more developed than in McNuggets days.

“If we happen to find one, that would be great,” said Alan Feldman, head of McDonald’s U.S. business. “A continuous stream of relevant, compelling new product news – that’s what we’re after.”

Industry-watchers endorse that strategy.

“Everybody would like to hit a home run, but it’s a very competitive marketplace,” said Janice Meyer, an analyst for Donaldson, Lufkin &Jenrette. “They’re going for singles and doubles, which at least gets you on base.”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

Smoke comes out of the roof of ReMyx'd, a restaurant on Smokey Point Drive, on Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Arlington, WA. (IAFF Local 3438)
Fire damages Arlington bar that received death threats

Arlington Police say initial indications are that fire at ReMyx’d does not appear to be intentionally set.

Most Read