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NEED FOR SPEED

Salads and grilled chicken are too labor-intensive for McDonald’s now

A sign at the drive-thru at a McDonalds restaurant announces "We Sorry Salad Unavailable" in Somerville, Massachusetts.
How about a cheeseburger?
  • Kira Bindrim
By Kira Bindrim

Executive editor

Published

The universe of people who wake up craving a McDonald’s salad has never been… enormous, but a combination of labor pressures and post-pandemic dining habits means this niche group is now out of luck. Bloomberg reports that, with few local-market exceptions, salads are one of several menu items McDonald’s is nixing as it seeks to speed up operations.

Here’s what else you’ll find missing at Mickey D’s:

  • Grilled chicken sandwiches
  • Fruit and yogurt parfaits
  • The Egg White Delight McMuffin
  • The McChicken Biscuit
  • The Bacon, Egg & Cheese Bagel Breakfast Sandwich

“Our menu is driven by customer demand. We’re always listening to what our fans are craving and evolving our menu to provide them choices that meet their needs” McDonald’s USA said in a statement, also noting that the changes were made early in the pandemic. “Our transition to a limited menu, involving taking dozens of less popular national and regional items off menus, helped simplify operations for our restaurant crew while also improving our customers’ experience.”

McDonald’s isn’t alone in making adjustments; many fast-food spots have quietly iterated on their menus as the pandemic changed eating habits. More recently, supply-chain hiccups and competition for workers have forced restaurants to do more with less. Last year, nearly 60% of restaurants reported dropping menu items.

“With the shortage of labor, you’re trying to keep your menus as streamlined and as simple as possible,” BTIG analyst Peter Saleh told Bloomberg. “For many of these restaurants, their menus get bloated with some of these new items, and then you cut it off to help with speed.”

How are fast-food menus changing?

Convenience is an increasingly important consideration: A 2020 study found that McDonald’s had trimmed 30 seconds from its average drive-thru time, compared with the year before. Just this month, Taco Bell opened a concept store in Minnesota where customers order via app and have their meals delivered from a second-story kitchen via food chute.

But supply-chain shortages, and fallout from the war in Ukraine, are also impacting menu options. In Australia, a lettuce deficit is forcing KFC to use cabbage on its sandwiches, and one of the world’s largest producers of sriracha said it’s expecting a major shortage.

Fortunately, the fast food gods giveth even as they taketh away. This summer will see the debut or return of menu items that include McDonald’s Chocolatey Pretzel McFlurry, Wendy’s Summer Strawberry Chicken Salad, Arby’s Wagyu Steakhouse Burger, Panera’s Lobster Roll, and Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza.

You might want to call ahead on that last one, though. Two weeks in, Mexican Pizzas are already selling out.

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