Reporter's Notebook

Should McDonald's serve breakfast all day?

On Friday, McDonald’s Corp. confirmed that its 2014 was one of the worst years in company history. In the U.S., guest counts fell by 4.1 percent on the year. And the company said that sales would be weak for the next few months.

But all of that weakness is coming at lunch and dinner. Throughout its bad year, McDonald’s has remained strong at breakfast.

This has led to some talk about whether McDonald’s should start serving breakfast all day long, rather than stop serving some of its most popular items at 10:30 a.m.

Then again, one of the problems the chain has been having in recent years is the size of its menu and the complexity of its operations, which has hurt the chain’s trademark speed.

We put the question to two of our analyst sources we know who sit on distinctly different sides of the question. John Gordon, a restaurant consultant out of San Diego, and Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchisee who works with the chain’s operators.

Gordon believes that McDonald’s should make its Egg McMuffins and hashbrowns available all day long. Doing so, he said, would help the company’s strained relationship with younger consumers, who apparently like to eat breakfast later in the day. “I’m positive they’re missing out on that traffic,” Gordon said.

Other concepts have long ago figured out how to serve breakfast all day. Jack in the Box has, for instance, and “if they can figure it out there’s no reason McDonald’s can’t figure it out.”

There is more competition at lunch and dinner. But fewer concepts serve breakfast items. “It’s their strongest daypart,” Gordon said. “There’s too much competition at lunch and dinner.”

Adams, however, argues against the idea.

McDonald’s franchisees have been complaining vehemently about the complexity of the company’s menu. And many consultants, in fact, start out by cutting huge swaths of menus when looking to turn around a struggling restaurant chain.

Cutting items from the chain’s massive menu is a key element in its turnaround strategy. But adding breakfast items would work against that effort. Serving breakfast in the afternoon, after all, is like adding new products.

“Simplifying the menu and then dumping breakfast products into lunch and other dayparts would make absolutely no sense,” Adams said. He added that QSRs that do that “serve far fewer daily guests than the typical McDonald’s.”

“Any McDonald’s corporate executive who pushes for breakfast all day should be downsized,” Adams added. “Or be forced to try to manage a McDonald’s restaurant for six months. Then, bring them back to the home office and let them reconsider the recommendation.”

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