Commentary

Griddle Me This: How Vast Is The McBreakfast Club?

“Why, McDonald’s, why?”

That line was part of Stephen Colbert’s fist-shaking opener during a recent “Late Night” show. The host’s lament referred to the news that after testing it for six months in San Diego, McDonald’s had officially started serving ALL DAY BREAKFAST in all its restaurants throughout America.

In his unhappiness, Colbert seemed to be a party of one, while the announcement had practically cracked the Internet, which is unusual for anything corporate. On social media, the news was greeted with the passion and reverence usually reserved for a sighting of the Pope or Jon Stewart.

By now, it’s well known that the cutoff time for the McD’s b-fast foodstuffs was a strict 10:30. Apparently, over the years thousands of starved McMuffiners, pilgrims who had reached the Golden Arches by 10:32 or 10:35, only to be turned away, had emailed or tweeted at the mother church, begging to cut out the cut-off.

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But Colbert protested the move as chaos-inducing. “What’s next?” he asked. “We used to have rules!”

He also said, “Face it: breakfast for dinner means Mom is very tired or very sad.”

That last zinger did hit home — for people who grew up in those golden times when families actually sat down for dinner together every night. (And only Mom, never Dad or one of the kids, was the cook.)

But that’s exactly it. Now family food is generally more of a daily smorgasbord of microwave reheatings and various grub-grabbing.

So I disagree with Stephen here. Seems to me the move is a no-brainer. (Insert visual here showing two perfectly fried eggs in a pan, as the voiceover announces, “This is your brain on McDonald’s.”) It plays to a lot of the company’s strengths.

For starters, extending breakfast is a natural way to grow a share that the otherwise-beleaguered fast-food giant already owns. So, unlike adding a pumpkin-spice-latte-McRib salsa wrap to the menu, this was a genuinely organic, consumer-demanded revolution.

The easy tenor of the announcement ads also demonstrate what a natural, no manipulation-needed move it was. In contrast to the trumped-up pretend atmosphere of many commercials, these showed actors doing deadpan, low-energy readings of the actual, obsessive, besotted McD breakfast clubbers’ tweets and FB postings. The spots are delightful because they are so honest and counterintuitive—the actual Ed-Grimley-level-excitement of the Tweeters had to be tamped down!

The menu extension is also a way to counter some of the backlash surrounding McD’s food. Obviously, breakfast food may not be great for cholesterol, and then there’s the outrageous amount of salt in most of the muffin/biscuit offerings — but it still would seem healthier, lower-calorie, more customizable and hand-made than the fast-food giant’s chicken, beef, and pork –based products.  McD’s also offers oatmeal, and yogurt and fruit for breakfast.

And given the whole egg imagery thing, it’s a marketing initiative with the suggestion of freshness and newness built right into its semiotic core. Except for peeps with allergies, we generally have a positive, child-like association with eggs: they mean birth, nurture, and new beginnings.  They are something natural that can’t be tampered with or chemicalized. Nothing is more self-contained than an egg.

Not only does all-day-breakfast-eating fit into the Uber/Airbnb “share” economy zeitgeist, it also picks up on the idea of the increasing infantilization of American culture. Can we get any more relaxed than people who actually walk around in their pajamas? We have become a nation of grown-up toddlers, carrying plastic water bottles with nipples, wearing shoes with thick treads, going to offices with built-in playgrounds.  (And working heinous hours, which would underscore the demand for all-day breakfast.)

Of course, no move comes without some criticism. McD’s owner-operators had to buy new equipment: extra grills and toasters. And due to the limited kitchen and grill space during lunch and dinner times, the menu had to be limited, and it turns out that company can do Egg McMuffins or biscuits, not both. So those in about five Southern states will be missing the muffins. There was a huge alarm that the hash browns were deep-sixed as well, but that turned out to be false.

Who knew that in these post- “Super Size Me” days, with so much competition, that the Golden Arches’ offerings were so beloved? Time-shifting breakfast has been a free media tsunami.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back into my closet and find my Snuggie.  Happy face emoji, sun symbol.

15 comments about "Griddle Me This: How Vast Is The McBreakfast Club?".
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  1. Theodore G. Zavales from East House Creative, October 9, 2015 at 2:35 p.m.

    Happy Friday, All!


    I think the only real question is, "What took you so long?"  Diners been doing this basically forever; yes, that's right, in addition to deomcracy and philosophy, the Greeks are also the inventors of the all-day breakfast.


    As they say,  Καλή όρεξη!  (Greek for "bon appetit!").

    Good weekend,


    Z

  2. Don Perman from self, October 9, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.

    A great, insighful read. It brings together so many elements, from Colbert to cholesterol. Plus, many fine zingers.  Most of all, it's a thoughtful look at a marketing move.

  3. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, October 9, 2015 at 2:47 p.m.

    good point about the diners, TGZ. And as well, fast food competitors, like Sonic and others have congratulated McD's on catching up to what they are already doing. 

  4. Neilan Tyree from The Propeller Group, October 9, 2015 at 3:04 p.m.

    Best line? "We have become a nation of grown-up toddlers, carrying plastic water bottles with nipples, wearing shoes with thick treads, going to offices with built-in playgrounds." Thanks for a perfect chuckle to end the work week. Heh heh heh...

  5. Yale Hollander from Writer/Blogger, October 9, 2015 at 3:23 p.m.

    I can't speak for the rest of my fellow Egg McMuffinistas, but I can assure you that I will be growing more vast with 24/7 access to the delicious little buggers.

  6. Jane Farrell from Freelance, October 9, 2015 at 3:26 p.m.

    Excellent point about this move being a good distraction from the discontent about McD's other food. Everyone loves breakfast food! And no longer do you have to go to some complicated diner to get your hangover food.

  7. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, October 9, 2015 at 3:53 p.m.

    McDonald's All-Day Breakfast, now vastly more convenient for stoners!

  8. Eva Dillon from Self, October 9, 2015 at 4:46 p.m.

    Breakfast for breakfast or breakfast for dinner, I ain't eating at McDonald's.  Ew.

  9. Mark Paul from Mark Paul, October 9, 2015 at 6:27 p.m.

    Offering breakfast at all times also avoids a repeat of Jack Nicholson's diner scene in "Five Easy Pieces."

  10. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 9, 2015 at 8:55 p.m.

    Did you mean starved McMuffiners waddled in for a breakfast snack before dinner or after ?

  11. George Parker from Parker Consultants, October 9, 2015 at 9:05 p.m.

    I remember a TV show a few years ago on which they interviewed half a dozen celebrity chefs about what they had for breakfast, five said granola, yoghurt, juice etc, etc. The sixth was Anthony Bourdain. He said a pack of Marlboro and a six pack of beer. What a guy. He served the best offal in Manhattan at Les Halle's. Maybe Tom would agree?

  12. Jim English from The Met Museum, October 10, 2015 at 12:11 a.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  All day breakfast foods not exactly a health initiative as McD has offered in the past (salads, etc.).    Thinking of your description of McDonald's biz in 2004.  "Selling health is not nearly as easy, or fun, as selling madly bad-for-you but addictive comfort food."
     

  13. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, October 10, 2015 at 11:21 a.m.

    During my sons teen years, the only way I got him out of bed on weekends was a promise of McDonalds breakfast....I am grateful they waited til now to change, or I fear he would still be asleep in the old house on Long Island

  14. Valerie Graves from Valerie Graves Creative, October 10, 2015 at 10:07 p.m.

    This could very well be the re-positioning of Mickey D's as the neighborhood diner. They should be so smart.

  15. Alan Wasserstrom from None, October 13, 2015 at 2:35 p.m.

    A tasty mc Nugget amidst a very somber world of journalism.

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