The Pretzelnator did not drive a wave of German excitement for McDonald’s

The Pretzelnator: Too fancy for Germans’ austerity tastes.
The Pretzelnator: Too fancy for Germans’ austerity tastes.
Image: AP Photo / McDonald's
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Not even the relatively brief appearance of the crowd-sourced Pretzelnator burger McDonald’s launched earlier this year got Germans excited about eating there.

The fast-food juggernaut reported generally rosy November store sales this morning, led by a 2.5% increase in “same-store sales” (i.e., counting only the stores that were open in November 2011) in the US, thanks to robust sales of breakfast and cheaper items as well as new products such as the new Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwiches. European restaurants posted only 1.4% increases, thanks to the UK and Russia, which managed to offset sluggishness in Germany.

Stoking German appetites for the golden arches has been a persistent problem for McDonald’s recently, as the nation’s famously frugal consumers ratcheted down spending in reaction to the ongoing European debt crisis. Germany is McDonald’s largest European market by number of stores, though it is second by profits (France, you may be surprised to learn, is first). In McDonald’s October earnings reports, executives focused on Germany’s recalcitrant consumers, saying:

While Germany hasn’t been impacted as significantly as the rest of Southern Europe economically, German consumers are some of the most sensitive to global economic news. Their high saving rates, controlled spending habits and focus on price deals, all reflect continued weak consumer confidence.

McDonald’s has added more cheap items to its European menus in response to the ongoing sovereign debt mess, but it still looks like the company is having trouble pulling in customers. Perhaps, after Angela Merkel’s call last month for ein bisschen Strenge (“a bit of strictness”) in Europe, McDonald’s should ditch the Pretzelnator and come up with a Strengeburger instead: no fat, no trimmings, just lean meat and a bun sliced extra thin.