Image above: A classic Quarter Pounder with Cheese, still waiting to be joined on the national menu by plant-based options.
Two months after eight McDonald’s restaurants began testing a plant-based McPlant burger in partnership with Beyond Meat, all indications are the menu offering will expand in early 2022.
Just how far it will expand and how quickly is the subject of the latest installment in a long-running guessing game among Wall Street analysts, as both McDonald’s and Beyond Meat have been mum on the subject.
On Monday, Piper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery said that the firm’s sources indicated a national McPlant rollout could come in Q1 of next year.
The same day, BTIG’s Peter Saleh opined that the eight-location test will grow to approximately 700 more restaurants in early 2022 as part of a six-to-eight week, limited-time offer in February and March, as reported by Restaurant Dive.
As for a national rollout to all of McDonald’s approximately 13,400 U.S. locations, Saleh doesn’t see that happening until 2023.
Either way, Beyond Meat is making more headway with McDonald’s than with Taco Bell, whose parent Yum! Brands Inc. has a similar plant-based partnership.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Taco Bell canceled a planned test of a plant-based version of the grilled meat called carne asada because the chain was dissatisfied with samples Beyond Meat provided in October.
In a joint statement, Taco Bell and Beyond Meat didn’t confirm the cancellation but said they were “thrilled to be working together.”
In an Oct. 27 conference call, McDonald’s president and CEO Chris Kempczinski told financial analysts that a test of McPlant in the United Kingdom—where the QSR chain has about 1,300 restaurants—will expand from 250 locations to “a full national rollout” in the first quarter of 2022.
Asked by Credit Suisse analyst Lauren Silberman about the status of McPlant in the United States, Kempczinski said “it’s too early to be making any kind of readout on what we’re learning. It’s largely an operations test right now.”
He added that when it comes to determining whether there is a “broad-based” U.S. acceptance of McPlant, “we’ll learn that over the next several quarters.”
In November, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said he had visited a McDonald’s in California that is part of the eight-location test and interacted with customers eating McPlant.
“Encouragingly, these consumers fit the mold of the flexitarian and while not vegan or vegetarian, were enjoying the McPlant burger,” Brown said.
Based on franchisee contacts, BTIG estimated that several of the eight McDonald’s locations are selling roughly 70 McPlant burgers per day compared to the firm's initial projections of 20 to 25.
Panda Express also is testing a plant-based offering from Beyond Meat, which serves more than 35,000 U.S. foodservice outlets—the largest being Carl’s Jr. and Denny’s.
McDonald’s had no comment about the status of McPlant. Beyond Meat did not respond to request by deadline.