This post is part of the On the Margin blog.
McDonald’s Corp. is going simple. At least with its trademarks.
The big burger chain this month applied for a trademark for a slogan, “The Simpler The Better.” The application is dated March 4, and was first reported by the website BurgerBusiness.com.
Exactly why McDonald’s decided to apply for such a trademark is uncertain — the company isn’t saying. But simplification has been at the top of the chain’s mind recently, at least in terms of menu size.
Operators are putting pressure on the chain to reduce the number of items on its menu to improve operations. The chain has cut some products and reduced the number of items listed on its drive-thru menu boards. Executives have also hinted repeatedly that other cuts could come, especially as they consider expanding all-day breakfast or adding other items.
But it’s also unlikely the chain would advertise having fewer items on its menu. Another option? Some form of clean menu effort to highlight improvements or the removal of unwanted ingredients from its hamburgers and French fries.
Clean menu efforts have intensified at restaurant chains in recent years amid a belief that more customers are demanding the removal of chemicals and other unwanted ingredients from their food. Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s International Inc., Noodles & Company and others have announced various initiatives to remove some unwanted ingredients.
And McDonald’s over the past 18 months has intensified its own efforts on this front. It committed to using cage-free eggs, decided to stop selling chicken treated with human antibiotics, and launched a campaign to alleviate customer concerns about its food quality.
How much demand there is for clean food is fully debatable — according to the market research firm NPD Group, just 5 percent of grocery shoppers are considered “clean eaters.” But that hasn’t stopped these eaters from convincing the industry to shed these unwanted ingredients.
McDonald’s executives have hinted they are working on improvements to the chain’s core menu — and that none of the products are off limits. They cited the success of the Egg McMuffin last year following improvements made to that product. “We’re working on every item on our core menu,” McDonald’s USA president Mike Andres said at an investor conference earlier this month.
It’s also possible that the slogan could be some form of spring or summer lifestyle advertisement, as BurgerBusiness speculated.
And, of course, it’s possible nothing happens with this at all. McDonald’s has applied for trademarks in the past that would turn out to be little — anyone remember “McBrunch?” It has also filed applications last year for such terms as “McCare” for charitable work as well as the term “McRig.”
McDonald’s did not respond to requests for comment this afternoon, but a spokeswoman told BurgerBusiness that such applications are a routine part of doing business and that the company couldn’t share details.