Here’s why McDonald’s needs to slim down its menu

May 18, 2013
May 18, 2013

Over the past two months, McDonald’s has axed beloved items from its menu like the Angus Third Pounder and its fruit and walnut salads. And there may be more to come, according to a Bloomberg report, that says some McDonald’s franchisees got an email in October that identified other items for possible culling.

A McDonald’s spokeswomen, Danya Proud, declined to comment or confirm whether the report was true. “We have been adding and removing menu items from our menu for years. It’s part of doing business and nothing new,” she told Quartz.

But the world’s largest restaurant chain might want to rethink its revolving door menu of fast food inventions that are retired almost as soon as they are introduced. (This list includes the McJordan burger, created in Michael Jordan’s heyday, onion nuggets, McPizza, and salad served in cups.) Last October, McDonald’s global same-store sales fell for the first time in nine years, largely because of slowdown at its American locations. That trend continued this year as the chain’s US sales declined 1.2% during the first quarter. As is McDonald’s strategy, it has responded by offering new menu items.

But there’s reason to believe that less is becoming more in the world of fast food. In a survey done by the Nation’s Restaurant News and WD Partners, respondents ranked menu variety as the sixth most important trait (pdf), out of 10 at limited-service restaurants, after food quality, cleanliness, and service.

McDonald’s soon-to-be-defunct Angus burger was seen as the chain’s answer to semi-service, but slightly more premium burger chains like Five Guys, which has been capturing US diners downgrading from full-service restaurants since the financial crisis. A better approach for McDonald’s may have been emulating Five Guys minimalist menu instead.

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The Five Guys menu also includes over a dozen burger toppings.(fiveguys.com)

Other chains doing well with simplified menus include the burrito chain Chipotle, which offers five main food items. In-N-Out Burger offers just four main course items, not including customized options on its so-called secret menu. In contrast, McDonald’s sells a total of 145 items, according to Datassential, which researches menus. That selection includes over a dozen desserts, more than 10 types of salads, and almost 60 burgers, sandwiches and wraps, according to the US McDonald’s website. Spoilt for choice might not always be what the customer wants.

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