Fast-food giants share a not-so-secret recipe: make the up sell, adding fries to your bill or talking you into some kind of combination meal.
But the up sell isn’t working quite the way it used to. Consumers aren’t asking for "the #5 with fries" anywhere near as much as they used to, Fortune reports. A study by NPD Group finds that sales of combo meals at fast-food restaurants have gone down 12% in the last five years.
That means a billion fewer combo meals were ordered in the five-year period ending this past January than were ordered up in the five years before that. The lousy economy has something to do with it, but the study also showed that consumers would like to have more options in their combos.
The grand-daddy of the combo meal is the Happy Meal, which has been holding on for dear life. Revamped in time for the London Summer Olympics healthier menu marketing, it's been hit in markets such as Chile, where the government is now prohibiting restaurants (but it might as well say "McDonald's") from including toys with meals.
They may have caught wind of a new study out of Canada, which indicates that “children are far more likely to pick a healthier fast-food meal when promotional toys are offered only with those menu options, and not with less nutritional fare like burgers, fries and a (soda)."
The kids surveyed — YMCA day campers tested with actual Happy Meal toy tie-ins — were “three times more likely to pick a Happy Meal containing apple slices with caramel sauce and water instead of fries and (soda) when a toy came only with the more nutritional boxed meals,” the site notes.
Hold those apple slices for the moment. Sliced apples that are currently used at McDonald's US and sold in grocery stores were just recalled due to possible listeria contamination.
At least it's happier days for the Happy Meal in Japan, where embattled McD's mascot Ronald — who saw Mayor McCheese get the plum ambassador's job at the world's biggest McDonald's at the London Olympic Games — is still something of a rock star.
Ronald just met up with Pikachu in Tokyo to promote the Pokémon Happy Meal (actually called Happy Set) toys being distributed there. Have a nice flight home, Ronald. Don’t eat any apples.