This post is part of the On the Margin blog.
McDonald’s Corp. said Tuesday that it is testing Gilroy Garlic Fries at four locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, with garlic used from Gilroy, Calif.
It’s unusual for McDonald’s to send out releases on local market tests, especially one so local.
These days, a person needs a spreadsheet to keep track of all of the product tests and local market promotions going on at the chain and its 14,000 domestic locations. The company is testing different sizes of Big Mac. It’s testing or serving locally sweet potato fries, breakfast bowls, chicken sausage, kale bowls and even brats and Mighty Wings. Few if any of these were announced with a corporate release.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this product notable.
First, it’s another example of McDonald’s toying with line extensions of its most popular products.
McDonald’s has shown an increasing willingness to mess with products long thought to be off limits — the different sizes of Big Mac, which appear likely to be introduced nationwide, being the biggest example of this.
Fries are perhaps the chain’s most highly regarded product. The company is testing all-you-can-eat fries in one location. And it has served Shakin’ Flavor seasoned fries in some locations.
In this case, employees toss the fries with a puree mix that includes garlic and olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley and salt.
It’s also a big demonstration that the chain is more willing to use locally sourced ingredients.
The company has touted local sourcing before, having once created a site to tell consumers where its potatoes and fish and apples come from, for instance. And it has served lobster rolls in New England and burgers in Kentucky with bourbon sauce.
In this case, the garlic comes from Gilroy, Calif., which is about 80 miles south of San Francisco, and is known as “The Garlic Capital of the World.” On its site, McDonald's names the place where the garlic for the fries are coming from, the Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, which is the largest garlic production operation in the U.S.
The product is being introduced in four locations, and if it proves popular will be expanded to nearly 250 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area in August.
More restaurant chains, such as newer concepts like Sweetgreen, have touted locally sourced ingredients under the belief that younger consumers in particular want to know where their food comes from.
McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain, which makes the local trend particularly difficult. But the company under Steve Easterbrook and the head of its U.S. operations, Mike Andres, want to become more like a series of local and regional concepts than a single, giant, monolithic concept. And so the company has, when it could, inserted locally grown products into local menus.
At least so far, these efforts appear to be working. McDonald’s same-store sales outpaced the quick-service restaurant sector in each of the past two quarters.