What is in this article?:
- McDonald's tests variations on Quarter Pounder, McMuffin
- Strengthening the core
Innovating off signature sandwiches could help brand balance sales mix, drive traffic, says marketing expert
Strengthening the core
McDonald’s is at a point where there are very few things they could do with a new limited-time sandwich that would not adversely impact other parts of the menu, Nelson said. “The goal has to be optimizing product mix to build the core menu while maintaining visits,” he noted. “It is very challenging, but over the last 10 years, nobody has proven to be in McDonald’s league in this respect.”
While McDonald’s stated earlier that it would increase the output of its new-product pipeline, evidenced by the current limited-time offer of the Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwich, next month’s reprisal of the McRib and a likely rollout of Fish McBites for Lent, Nelson believes the brand is “uniquely positioned” to pursue a menu strategy that does line extensions off signature items.
“Other QSRs just can’t do it; they have a hamburger, not the Quarter Pounder with Cheese,” he said.
He did concede that Burger King had used this strategy in the past with its signature Whopper sandwich, but he argued that overdoing line extensions could erode the novelty effect and harm the value perception of that sandwich, meaning that a chain could have to promote and discount the unenhanced version aggressively to keep selling it after a limited-time offer period.
“When the Whopper is not treated as an LTO, it is dealt heavily,” Nelson said. “McDonald’s tried to get off that with the Dollar Menu, in order to get out of having these two-for-$3 deals [with Quarter Pounders or Big Macs] that the local markets were doing.”
He added that making variations off a core product also makes sense with the company’s test of a McMuffin made with egg whites, reportedly in test in Atlanta and Austin. Creating new news with the signature sandwich could spur the incremental traffic McDonald’s will need in coming months — when same-store sales comparisons from last winter will be a challenge to exceed — but it also satisfies macro trends, Nelson said.
“McDonald’s is like anyone else who has to pay attention to eating trends, and those are going toward lighter fare, with menu labeling driving the awareness of food’s contents and nutrition,” he said. “Doing this version with a core equity means it’s not a new food form, but it’s an Egg McMuffin that happens to be lower-calorie.”
McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud confirmed that the egg white McMuffin is on track for a planned national rollout in early 2013.
McDonald’s Corp. operates or franchises more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States.
Contact Mark Brandau at email@example.com.
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