McDonald’s Axes Seven Sandwiches in Push to Get Menu Right

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A McDonald's restaurant in San Francisco.

A McDonald's restaurant in San Francisco.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

McDonald’s menu just got smaller.

In an effort to speed up its kitchens and simplify customers’ choices, McDonald’s Corp. got rid of the Deluxe Quarter Pounder burger and six chicken sandwiches in the U.S. in the first quarter. The chain, which has talked for years about paring slow-selling items, also nixed honey mustard and chipotle barbecue snack wraps.

“It was a ‘rolling removal,’ meaning restaurants discontinued serving them as their supply depleted,” said Lisa McComb, a company spokeswoman.

McDonald’s new chief executive officer, Steve Easterbrook, is facing six straight quarters of declining same-stores sales in the U.S., along with pressure to sell healthier fare. While axing some sandwiches helps to condense the bloated menu, McDonald’s still has about 40 more items than it did in 2007, according to menu researcher Datassential in Los Angeles.

“They could cut their burger number in half,” said Michelle Greenwald, a marketing professor at Columbia Business School in New York City.

“If you have a good burger, a really, really good burger, you don’t need a million,” she said. “They should go for quality and not quantity.”

McDonald’s has tacked on a flurry of new fare in the past decade in an attempt to draw more customers and better compete with other fast-food restaurants. In 2006, the chain added grilled- and crispy-chicken snack wraps, and in 2009 began selling McCafe espresso drinks and three versions of Angus burgers nationwide. McCafe smoothies and frappes were added in 2010, and Shamrock Shakes were sold nationally for the first time in 2012. The Angus burgers have since been discontinued.

Replacement Burger

The Deluxe Quarter Pounder was replaced by a similar hamburger with different toppings, McComb said.

While McDonald’s has worked to trim its menu, new-food news is important for the company and its competitors. Burger King recently posted its best quarterly North American sales growth in almost a decade, thanks in part to a promotion offering chicken nuggets for 15 cents each. The company also recently announced it would bring back chicken fries permanently after a two-month test last year helped boost sales.

McDonald’s brought back Chicken Selects this year, and it’s also testing all-day breakfast at about 94 restaurants in the San Diego area. The company said earlier this month it’s rolling out a new sirloin burger and will continue to test new fare.

‘Further Moves’

“There will be further moves on menu simplification coming up now, because we have a number of tests in place,” Easterbrook said during an earnings call last week.

Easterbrook will unveil his turnaround plan for the struggling chain next week.

Despite the logistical issues created by menu bloat, it’s not surprising that McDonald’s has continued to test new items since Easterbrook took over, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at food-industry researcher Technomic Inc. The new CEO probably inherited the plans, he said.

“When you’re as big as McDonald’s, it’s like stopping a train,” he said. “You have to slow it down before you can stop.”

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