Grand Mac Jonathan Maze

McDonald’s looks to the Big Mac for sales growth

Chain serving its signature sandwich in two new sizes

McDonald’s Corp. is going big with the Big Mac this year.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant this week introduced two new sizes of its signature Big Mac — a rare line extension for the chain’s signature sandwich.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s said on Twitter that it plans to reveal a surprise next Thursday. It’s uncertain what that surprise will be, but it appears to be related to the chain’s Big Mac promotion.

The bigger Grand Mac includes two patties totaling a third of a pound of beef. It costs around $5 and has nearly 900 calories. The sandwich weighs about 11 ounces in total and is roughly larger than a softball.

The smaller Mac Jr. is designed for customers who want an easy-to-hold version of the Big Mac. It costs about $3, has one patty and is 480 calories. Both sandwiches have lettuce, onions, pickles, Big Mac sauce and a sesame seed bun.

The new Big Mac sizes signal a return to new-product news for McDonald’s after an 18-month hiatus — its last new product LTO was the Third Pound Burgers in 2015. Last year, the chain focused much of its marketing on all-day breakfast and value deals, while leaving much of the innovation up to different regions.

The offer also signals a major change in thinking at McDonald’s headquarters. Outside of a brief foray into a Mac Snack Wrap that ended in 2010, McDonald’s has largely avoided any extensions of the Big Mac in the U.S. — despite news from competitors like Burger King, which is using its Whopper as a new product format.

Last year McDonald’s tested Big Macs featuring sauce laced with Sriracha in Ohio.

McDonald’s hopes the Big Mac promotion can be a shot in the arm early this year as it seeks to regain some momentum it has lost in recent months. Same-store sales in the U.S. slowed to 1.3 percent in the third quarter, and some analysts expect that number to turn negative in the fourth quarter as the chain laps a strong fourth quarter of 2015.

Mark Kalinowski, analyst with Instinet, said in a note Wednesday morning that he expects McDonald’s same-store sales to fall 1.2 percent, based on a survey with franchisees. He also expects same-store sales to fall 1.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, in which the chain also runs up against difficult comparisons from the same period in 2016. 

But one operator told Kalinowski that the Big Mac promotion “should be a winner,” and expects the chain’s $1 coffee promotion to generate traffic. 

Investor expectations appear to be increasing when it comes to McDonald’s. The company’s stock has risen more than 10 percent since early November. 

McDonald’s has signaled a willingness to do more to promote its core menu items in the past two years, and the Big Mac is central to that core. It is arguably the most well known sandwich in the restaurant industry, one so prevalent across the world that the magazine The Economist uses it as an index to measure the strength of different countries’ currencies.

Franchisee Jim Delligatti, eager to get McDonald’s to develop a bigger sandwich, started serving the Big Mac in 1967. Sales took off. McDonald’s expanded the sandwich nationwide, and it has remained on the menu ever since.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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