After a brief dalliance with hoity-toity, McDonald’s has decided to stick with what got it to the top. In a brief statement yesterday, it introduced two new Quarter Pounder toppings while letting it slip that it will “move away from the Signature Crafted Recipes” introduced in 2017 and featuring premium fare such as Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon and Maple Bacon Dijon sandwiches.
“Executives at the time said they thought customers would appreciate a better burger. A year later the company added fresh-beef patties for its signature and quarter-pounder burgers. McDonald’s has seen weaker traffic at its restaurants as other burger chains such as Five Guys and Shake Shack Inc. have gained market share,” writes Micah Maidenberg for the Wall Street Journal.
“But the customizable burgers made McDonald’s kitchens more complex, as did the introduction of all-day breakfast in 2015. That has lengthened wait times at the chain’s drive-through windows,” Maidenberg adds.
"When the artisanal line was unveiled two years ago, Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s USA, said the menu additions would include 'more food-forward ingredients’ and appeal to millennials,” USA Today’s Zlati Meyer reminds us.
“Peter Saleh, managing director at the New York brokerage BTIG, wasn't surprised that the upscale sandwiches line-up was getting the ax, likening it to the Angus Third Pounder, introduced in 2009 and cut in 2013,” she continues.
“‘They have a pretty long history of premium items that haven’t really worked on their menu,’ Saleh tells Meyer. The buzz ‘has kind of dwindled and what they’re left with was a platform that's not resonating with the guests in terms of driving sales.’”
Speaking of driving, several additions in recent years tended to stall traffic.
“The change comes several weeks after McDonald’s announced it was paring down its late-night menu to eight core items, so diners will no longer be able get Filet-o-Fish, premium salads and other meals after midnight. The menu simplification could help McDonald’s improve wait times at its drive-thrus, which have increased over the past five years,” Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz writes for the Chicago Tribune.
“It [the removal] probably has more to do about the process of cooking the burger in McDonald’s than it does what the consumer is saying about the food,” Howard Penney, a managing director at Hedgeye Risk Management, tells Reuters’ Nivedita Balu.
“Big franchisees also did not buy into the idea of McDonald’s pricier burgers initially, mindful of the cooking time required for these made-to-order burgers,” Balu continues. “It makes it easier for the people running the stores and operating the stores … simple is good,” Penney says.
“With Burger King ahead of McDonald's in launching a Veggie Burger -- the Impossible Whopper -- one can understand McDonald’s wanting to simplify at least a few things in order to address competitive pressures,” Chris Matyszczyk empathetically suggests for Inc.
“At heart, though, one can't help thinking that having more standard fare based on the Quarter Pounder will allow the chain to raise the speed limit at its drive-thru and within its restaurants, and that's what this is all about,” he adds. “Strategic changes aren’t often easy. You need both employees and customers on your side.”
Indeed, “with more and more fresh beef offerings for their core sandwiches, it was probably the next natural step for them to phase those out and put the priority on the Quarter Pounder,” Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy tells CNN Business’ Danielle Wiener-Bronner.
“Restaurants that ‘have focused around reducing the number of products to improve speed of service and order accuracy’ tend to have more success, he noted,” she adds.
There are tweeting dissenters, of course, and popculture.com's Daniel S. Levine rounded up a few of them. “RIP Mushroom Swiss” says one. “2019 Completely Ruined” states another, perhaps a tad peremptorily.