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McDonald’s is trademarking a new phrase focused on simplicity

AP Photo/Candice Choi
Simplify me.
By Alison Griswold
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

McDonald’s has chalked its recent turnaround up to all-day breakfast, and the numbers certainly support that story:

But another ongoing effort—which the US-based fast food chain hopes will be similarly transformative—is menu simplification. In late 2014, McDonald’s sold 121 items, 75% more than what it offered just 10 years earlier. There were Mighty Wings and McWraps, Egg White Delights and blueberry pomegranate smoothies. The menu bloat slowed service, confused customers, and confounded analysts. In 2015, McDonald’s slowly started cutting back.

Now, several months out from its successful all-day breakfast launch, McDonald’s looks like it’s getting ready to bring the focus back to simplicity. Earlier this month, the company filed a trademark application for the phrase, “The Simpler the Better.” The application was first reported by BurgerBusiness, which noted that McDonald’s is testing a “Simple Delights” menu of lower-calorie items in San Diego. McDonald’s told Quartz in a statement that it ”can’t share details at this time as to how this trademark may or may not be used.”

Simplicity, it turns out, hasn’t paired so well with other McDonald’s initiatives. Nationwide all-day breakfast didn’t streamline McDonald’s menu so much as complicate it, and immediately after the October rollout franchisees declared the initiative a logistical nightmare. Over the last year, McDonald’s has also introduced an “artisan” chicken sandwich and tested everything from customized burgers to a Chicken McGriddle, menu experiments that seem more about throwing-it-at-the-wall-and-seeing-what-sticks than simplicity.

On the other hand, McDonald’s had a stellar fourth quarter. Sales are up, the stock is near an all-time high. Things are good. If the company needs a little time to figure out where it falls on simplicity—in branding and in practice—it has earned that prerogative. Plus, ”the simpler the better” is so, so much better than at least one past slogan: “lovin’ beats hatin’

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