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Restaurant Menu Watch: McDonald's shakes up regional menus

Restaurant Menu Watch: McDonald's shakes up regional menus

NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn breaks down what you should be watching in the industry this week. Connect with him on the latest menu trends and news at [email protected] and @foodwriterdiary. RELATED: • McDonald’s to stop selling chicken treated with human antibiotics in US • McDonald's to cut 8 menu items in January • More food and beverage news

McDonald’s move to reorganize domestic operations to align them with regional tastes might be bearing fruit.

In October, the quick-service operator said it was doing away with its three regional divisions — East, West and Central — in favor of four zones: Northeast, South, Central and West, so that, for example, units in Minnesota would not be compelled to run the same specials as those in Louisiana.

Some regional tests involving little operational complexity are now underway in the East and West.

Golden Arches locations in four northern California markets — Sacramento, Chico, Fresno and San Francisco — as well as Reno, Nev., are inviting customers to shake flavor packets of Zesty Ranch, Chipotle BBQ or Garlic Parmesan on their Chicken McNuggets or French fries.

The packets, called Shakin’ Flavor Seasonings, are free, and seem like an easy way for McDonald’s to see what new flavors might appeal to customers. But Consumerist doesn’t like the idea: “Giving customers a packet of dry seasoning meant to be dumped in a thin, paper McDonald’s bag is only one small tear away from an annoying mess, or [gasp!] the loss of a nugget/fry.”

Shakin’ Flavor Seasonings were already tested on fries in Northern California, as well as in St. Louis. They are reportedly based on Shake Shake fries that were introduced in Hong Kong 10 years ago and are periodically offered in many of the chain’s Asian markets.

A Cheddar cheese flavored version of Shake Shake Fries was recently introduced at 1,400 Latin American locations as part of a tie-in with the movie “Penguins of Madagascar,” about a troupe of cheese-loving aquatic birds.

Meanwhile, in the East, some Chesapeake Bay area McDonald’s locations are flavoring Filet-O-Fish sandwiches with Old Bay Seasoning, a favorite ingredient in seafood dishes there.

Richard Gorelick and some of his colleagues at The Baltimore Sun tried the sandwiches. They reported that the seasoning is actually in the tartar sauce, and they liked it.

“But I enjoyed my sandwich, which had that distinct McDonald's ‘mouth feel’ — that oddly comforting sensation of solid food dissolving in your mouth,” Gorelick wrote.

“The seasoned tartar sauce really isn’t half bad,” he added. “I got pickle at the first taste and pepper right after.”

McDonald’s U.S. media relations manager Terri Hickey said the Old Bay limited-time offer in some restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Delaware and West Virginia, and the Shakin’ Flavor test in the West, are currently the only U.S. markets conducting those kinds of tests.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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