A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jun 23, 2020

McDonalds Limits Menu During Pandemic - And Customers Are Delighted

Surveys report customers believe service is faster and orders more accurate. Franchisees are thrilled because this helps limit staffing and inventory expense.

But eliminating all-day breakfast! Is nothing sacred? JL

Heather Haddon reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Salads, bagels and yogurt parfaits are among around 100 items that executives say they removed from menus after the pandemic hit the U.S. to simplify store procedures and supply. The changes mean operators will have to stock fewer goods in their restaurants. McDonald’s executives said such changes had a bigger impact than anticipated. Drive-through times fell by an average of 25 seconds and customers reported in surveys that their food was better and their orders more accurate. 80% of U.S. franchisees voted last week to drop all-day breakfast for good.
McDonald’s Corp. MCD 0.48% plans to keep dozens of items off U.S. menus for the foreseeable future, after sparer operations implemented during the coronavirus pandemic led to improved service times and better margins.
Salads, bagels and yogurt parfaits are among around 100 items that executives say they removed from menus after the pandemic hit the U.S. to simplify store procedures and supply. The changes mean operators will have to stock fewer goods in their restaurants.
Many restaurant chains stripped down their menus during the pandemic in light of supply and labor constraints. Some, including Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc., have reported improved operations as a result of the more limited menus, including faster service times and less waste.
McDonald’s executives said such changes had a bigger impact than they anticipated. Drive-through times fell by an average of 25 seconds during the pandemic, they said, and customers reported in surveys that their food was better and their orders were more accurate.
“Our menu strategy really has been focused as a result of Covid and the success we’ve had with a limited menu,” McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said during a call with restaurant owners on Wednesday.
McDonald’s menu had ballooned in recent years as the company tried to attract new customers. That caused drive-through times to increase to levels that troubled executives, prompting the chain to test forms of automation and remove some more-complicated items. The company said the pandemic led it to now undertake a menu review that it had originally planned to do by 2023.
“We heard overwhelmingly the need to simplify our menu,” Morgan Flatley, McDonald’s chief marketing officer for the U.S., said on the call with restaurant owners.
McDonald’s analyzed dozens of menu items to decide which should return. It currently plans to add back seven items in the U.S. menu by July, the company said in a presentation to restaurant owners viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Three desserts are set to return this month, while two Quarter Pounder variations and the Bacon McDouble sandwich will come back in July, according to the document. The company also plans to bring back hot tea.
The company said it could bring back some of the removed items, such as salads, down the road. The chain will focus on introducing a crispy chicken sandwich that has been in the works for months, and a new bakery selection at breakfast, executives said during the presentation.
McDonald’s operators had complained about the growing complexity of the menu for years. Some say they want the company to suspend the all-day breakfast service that was halted during the pandemic for the long-run, too. The board of the National Owners Association, a group representing around 80% of U.S. franchisees, voted last week to drop all-day breakfast for good.
McDonald’s began offering breakfast all day in 2015, one of its biggest operational changes in years. The change improved sales in the U.S. for a time. Last year, the company said it would allow operators to choose what breakfast items to serve all day as it tried to simplify operations.
McDonald’s said in the presentation this week that it has yet to determine what it will do with all-day breakfast.

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