McDonald’s Corp. is giving customers what they’ve long wanted: Breakfast items after 10:30 a.m.
McDonald’s received 10,000 Twitter mentions in the first 90 minutes Tuesday after it became official that all-day breakfast was coming, said Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA.
“We’re engaging one-on-one with all the people who asked about it,” Wahl said. All-day breakfast, she added, “makes people happy.”
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant said Tuesday that it plans to offer a limited selection of breakfast items during lunch and dinner starting on Oct. 6, acquiescing to long-held customer demands amid three years of weakening sales.
The change represents one of the biggest menu moves the company has made in its storied, 60-year history, yet one in which it doesn’t have to add a single new ingredient.
“We’re excited about it,” said Mike Andres, president of McDonald’s USA. “We think this is the next big thing.”
The change follows approval from the company’s franchisees, as well as a franchisee leadership board on Tuesday. The company has already started a social media campaign. Its Twitter account started responding to every customer who ever requested all-day breakfast.
At the same time that the chain adds all-day breakfast, it will also cut items from its menu, though what gets cut and where will depend on the market. Individual markets will determine what items to remove.
That’s an important consideration for franchisees, who have been increasingly concerned in recent years about the complexity of the chain’s menu.
So, when McDonald’s restaurants change their menu boards in October, those boards will have fewer overall items. The menu cuts will not include core items like hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Big Macs, Quarter Pounders or Filet O’ Fish.
“Each market has made the decision to reduce menu items as well,” Andres said.
Planning for menu simplification has coincided with all-day breakfast. Adding those breakfast items all day is easier in a restaurant with a thinner menu. “We discussed helping with simplification, to make sure that (all-day breakfast) is simple and easy to execute,” said LeAnn Richards, a franchisee who led McDonald’s all-day breakfast task force. “It fits together.”
Exactly what breakfast item will be offered will depend on the location of the restaurant.
In most markets, the company will serve McMuffin sandwiches, including the popular Egg McMuffin that launched McDonald’s popular breakfast daypart back in 1972.
But a few markets, mostly in the South, will serve biscuit sandwiches instead — dependent upon whether biscuits are more popular than McMuffins in those markets, company officials said.
Based on the limitations of serving both breakfast and lunch items at the same time, the company can only offer one type of breakfast sandwich after 10:30 a.m. All markets with all-day breakfast will also serve Hotcakes, Sausage Burritos, parfaits, oatmeal and hash browns.
Breakfast is a popular daypart, and consumers want those products available all the time. More than 70 percent of consumers in various polls say they want breakfast items available at lunch and dinner.
McDonald's didn’t need those surveys: All-day breakfast was the largest single request the company received. Yet the chain long resisted that suggestion amid concerns about menu complexity and the difficulty of making egg-based sandwiches alongside hamburgers.
Behind the move
The chain’s sales sluggishness over the past three years, as well as the promotion of Steve Easterbrook to CEO, helped change the company’s mind.
Breakfast sales have held in recent years and have even grown despite the company’s overall weakness. And news that the chain was even considering the idea of all-day breakfast generated positive buzz for the company. All that gave the company further reason to consider the move.
“We’ve always been in tune with customer requests,” Andres said. “But we want to protect the integrity of each daypart.”
The company started testing all-day breakfast in San Diego earlier this year and then expanded that test into other markets, like Nashville, and tested various iterations in the process.
Richards’ committee looked at how to ensure that raw eggs didn’t come in contact with its burgers. Restaurants also need new toasters so they can toast muffins and buns at the same time, Richards said. And the committee looked at how the added equipment could be adapted to different kitchens.
The chain might have to train some crewmembers at its restaurants on how to make breakfast items, but most of them are already familiar with the products and how they’re made.
“We didn’t have to bring in anything new,” Richards said. “It wasn’t that complicated.”
There is one big benefit: Employees will no longer have to tell customers they can’t have an Egg McMuffin at noon.