Wednesday, December 3, 2014

McDonald's: Is a Bigger Menu Better?


McDonald's has yet another menu option for Happy Meals: fresh, whole Clementines (Cutie brand) ready for national rollout.

Nutritionally, this is a good idea, and it's also good for encouraging associations of healthy eating with the McD's brand. Happy Meals already have apple slices and Go-Gurt as possible sides, so Clementines are another healthy alternative.

But adding more menu options and localizing some menu items adds complexity and potentially slows service. According to one source, McDonald's had 85 menu items in 2007--and today, it carries 121. Not only are the menu boards jammed, the kitchen gets bogged down at times and the front-end and drive-through lanes get clogged with customers waiting for their orders. Not to mention that customers may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, kids, coffee, and so on.

Drive-through service is slowing at many fast-food chains, including McD's. However, McDonald's doesn't want to slow down the drive-through because that's where so many customers order and pay--and some franchisees are competing on the basis of speedy service. According to Fast Company, an increase in waiting time of a few minutes might discourage enough customers to lop tens of millions of dollars off sales.

On the other hand, McDonald's wants to shape its image to better compete with casual-eating chains that encourage customers to individualize their orders. “Today’s consumers increasingly prefer customizable food options, dining in a contemporary, inviting atmosphere and using more convenient ways to order and pay for their meals,” according to the CEO. So will an expanded menu with more choices and customizable options be a plus or a minus for McDonald's?

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