McDonald’s Corp. has confirmed the discontinuation of two menu items whose demise was first reported on a franchisee’s social media pages last week.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company verified that the Fruit & Walnut Salad andSelects would be removed permanently from its chain's menu after supplies run out at its more than 14,000 restaurants in the United States. The Angus Third Pounder line of burgers also is rumored to be on its way out, though McDonald’s would not confirm that.
“McDonald’s makes decisions about what to add and what to remove from our menu on a case-by-case basis,” spokeswoman Lainey Garcia wrote in an email. “We can confirm that we will be removing the Fruit & Walnut Salad and Chicken Selects from our U.S. restaurants. As always, we are constantly evolving our menu and listening to our customers to meet their changing needs.”
According to the Chicago Tribune and other online media sources, news of the removal of Chicken Selects and the Fruit & Walnut Salad, as well as the rumor that McDonald’s may be rethinking the Angus burger line, originated with McEnaney Enterprises, a McDonald’s franchise with locations in Kentucky and Tennessee.
A report in the Kentucky New Ear said the franchisee tweeted and posted to Facebook, “Sorry if one of these were your favorite. … They just did not sell well enough nationally.”
Mark Laux, chief executive of Oshkosh, Wis.-based marketing and menu strategy firm HotOperator Inc., said dropping the Chicken Selects and Fruit & Walnut Salad would make sense if McDonald’s determined that guests simply were not coming through the doors for those seemingly premium items.
Even without knowing what new permanent or limited-time products replace the chicken tenders and salad over the course of this year, Laux said the threat of losing significant traffic from people seeking something healthful or different from burgers likely was minimal.
“I don’t think there’s much of a risk,” Laux said. “The anti-veto-vote items for them are the Filet-O-Fish, the Southern chicken sandwich and their other salads. They’re not losing all their salads, just the slow seller.”
What might be a bigger risk, just in terms of sunk costs for menu research and development and marketing, he said, would be a discontinuation of Angus Third Pounders, which McDonald’s rolled out in 2009.
If McDonald’s did decide to discontinue and replace Angus Third Pounders, the brand would need to consider what the loss of Angus or the entrance of new products in that higher price tier do to core sandwiches like cheeseburgers, Quarter Pounders and Big Macs, Laux said.
He called the Angus product a “mental anchor point” that defines what the high end of McDonald’s menu is for most customers. Such items are not meant to be the biggest sellers, “and they give people an item they can feel good about rejecting,” he said, in favor of the chain’s core best sellers.
“You want people to buy Big Macs and large fries and Cokes all day long,” Laux said. “Even the regular Quarter Pounder with Cheese is a pretty good product, and because it’s so much less money, I can’t imagine the value proposition being there for an Angus.”
McDonald’s said in its most recent earnings call that the pace of product introductions would pick up in 2013. For years, a central tenet of its “Plan to Win” has been to broaden accessibility to the menu, with a steady rollout of new products to the Dollar Menu as well as to other price tiers.
McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide.