McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce promotion backfires

McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce promotion backfires

Company promises more after ‘Rick and Morty’ fans protest limited supplies

On Saturday, McDonald’s Corp. had what all restaurant chains dream of: Long lines of excited customers standing outside of its restaurants, as fans of the cartoon Rick and Morty lined up for the chain’s one-day offer of Szechuan Sauce.

But those lines quickly devolved into chaos and protests as restaurants ran out of sauce or didn’t have any altogether — ultimately prompting McDonald’s to apologize and promise more readily available sauce in the future.

“Szechuan Sauce is coming back once again this winter,” the company said in a statement over the weekend. “And instead of being one-day-only and limited to select restaurants, we’re bringing more — a lot more — so that any fan who’s willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan Sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald’s.”

“We want to make this right,” the company added.

McDonald’s offered Szechuan Sauce in 1998 as part of a promotion with the Disney movie Mulan. It was one of numerous, short-lived products that have appeared and disappeared from the Oak Brook, Ill.-based giant’s menu over the years.

But Szechuan Sauce got a new lease on life earlier this year when it became a feature point in Rick and Morty — a show on the Cartoon Network that spoofs the Back to the Future movies.

More than 40,000 fans of the show signed a petition to get McDonald’s to bring the sauce back.

Over the summer, McDonald’s hinted that a Szechuan Sauce promotion was coming when it sent Rick and Morty’s creator sauce along with a letter from McDonald’s Chef — and Rick and Morty fan — Mike Haracz.

That promotion came this week. McDonald’s recently introduced new Buttermilk Crispy Tenders along with a selection of sauces and posters highlighting those sauces.

So McDonald’s last week announced that it would indeed bring back Szechuan Sauce. Yet the company replicated previous promotions, such as its Big Mac Sauce giveaway in January, by making the sauce available for only one day this past Saturday at 1,000 participating locations. Each location only had a limited amount of the sauce.

Much like those previous offers, lines at locations said to be making the sauce available were long:

But this time, the result backfired on McDonald’s. In many cases, according to numerous social media reports, Rick and Morty fans grew angry. 

Even the show’s co-creator weighed in.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the lucky few who got their Szechuan Sauce immediately put it up for sale on eBay for as much as $1,000. No, we’re not kidding.

On Saturday afternoon, McDonald’s apologized for the problem.

And ultimately the chain said it would make things right by promising more sauce in the future.

“In the last 24 hours, we’ve worked to open any portal necessary,” the company said. “And it worked.”

So Rick and Morty fans who did not get their sauce probably should just wait a couple of months rather than spend $1,000 to get it now.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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