McDonald’s Tries ‘Less Is More’ with New Menu Reductions

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When you’re stuck in neutral as McDonald’s has been lately, you begin to try a little bit of everything. Expanding the menu. Focusing on value options. Sacking your chief of US operations. And, now—reducing the menu.

On the heels of its elimination of the Angus Burger, Fruit & Walnut Salad and Chicken Selects, there are reports that other McDonald’s U.S. menu items are on the chopping block too as the chain scrambles for ways to maximize traffic and revenues while minimizing costs to deal with stubbornly reluctant consumers. It’s also part of how the chain hopes to woo back millennials, as CEO Don Thompson is expected to outline at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Caesar Salad, McSkillet Burrito and the Southern Style biscuit may also disappear, according to a franchisee e-mail obtained by Bloomberg. These would be further cutbacks in McDonald’s core menu at a time when the company increasingly has been emphasizing the traffic-building value instead of “limited-time” items such as popcorn chicken and McRib sandwiches.[more]

Bloomberg also pointed out “some redundancy” on McDonald’s menu anyway, such as the Double Cheeseburger—which has two beef patties and two slices of American cheese—and the McDouble, which is the same thing with one slice of American cheese.

McDonald’s menu has grown by about 70 percent since 2007, which has strained service, added to costs, and perhaps frustrated some consumers who would gladly trade simplicity for a prolific menu. “It’s gotten to the point where the operation has kind of broken down and that’s all a symptom of the complication of the menu,” Richard Adams, a San Diego-based restaurant franchisee consultant and former McDonald’s store owner, told NACS Online.

Chain spokeswoman Danya Proud noted that McDonald’s is “constantly adding and removing menu items.” But the fact is that McDonald’s is still casting around for solutions to sluggish sales growth; same-store sales actually declined in the US by 1.2 percent in the first quarter. And, of course, all of McDonald’s competition, beset by the same general business and economic factors, are looking to do the same thing.

At the same time, every competitor in the fast-food business is dealing with the growing demand by consumers for better-for-you fare, which they must attempt to meet without concurrently reducing the traditional menu items that still attract the bulk of their customers. That is one reason why UCLA researchers just found that Subway is “just as unhealthy” as McDonald’s, according to a precise menu evaluation and study of actual consumption—despite Subway’s reputation for a healthful menu and its long assocation with slimmed-down spokesman Jared Fogle.

“I do not recommend fast food if you want to eat healthy,” said Lisa Young, a nutritionist quoted by Takepart.com.

Just what McDonald’s doesn’t need right now—another reminder to stay away from the Golden Arches.

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