McDonald’s rarely changes its menu. The Chicago chain has sort of pioneered reliability but has mixed that with limited-time offers and special items designed to excite regulars and bring back lapsed fans.
The fast-food leader has also created a model that very few other companies use. Instead of having a predictable schedule like Starbucks (SBUX) , which releases seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Spice Latte at roughly the same time each year, McDonald’s has kept its limited-time offer schedule unpredictable.
That has been most evident with the McRib, a sandwich that appears randomly on menus. McDonald’s actually has a method to its madness with McRib. It brings the sandwich back when the price of the pork scraps it uses to make the rib patty makes sense for the chain.
Being unpredictable with its availability, however, has made the McRib a cult favorite that fans follow around the country. There’s literally a McRib Tracker website that enables fans to follow where the popular treat has hit a menu, and its reappearance brings the chain free publicity both nationally and locally.
Now, McDonald’s wants to do the same thing with a limited-time dessert offer.
McDonald’s Goes Beyond Apple Pie
Apple Pie has been a staple of the McDonald’s dessert menu. The company has a limited dessert menu that’s based mostly on soft-serve ice cream, but it has always offered steaming hot hand-held pastry versions of the classic American dessert.
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Now, the classic apple has been joined on select McDonald’s menus by a take on a blueberry pie. The Blueberry & Crème Pie, which last appeared on the chain’s menu in 2017, according to Chewboom, “features blueberries and vanilla flavored crème baked side-by-side in a flaky sugar-coated, baked crust.”
Like the McRib, the Blueberry & Crème Pie will appear only at select McDonald’s locations for a limited time.
What Is McDonald’s Business Logic Behind LTOs?
Fast-food chains face enormous competition for customers and they want to maximize revenue from regulars. When Starbucks, for example, brings back the pumpkin-spiced latte, it entices lapsed or infrequent visitors to return to its stores while also encouraging regular visitors to spend more money.
“[Limited-time offers] effectively create the promise of a short-lived and scarce opportunity, and that creates a sense of urgency among consumers,” says Modern Restaurant Management’s Matt MacInnis.
“The allure of a unique experience brings out the competitive spirit in people, so it’s no wonder 50% of Millennials and Generation X customers race to be the first in their friend group to try a new LTO — and document it on social media. Or brag about it on the sofa.”
Basically, McDonald’s – which has a predictable and familiar menu – gives its audience and even people who aren’t customers fear of missing out. People talk about the McRib and the Blueberry & Crème Pie, making them phenomena that people want to be part of.
FOMO drives people to stores, and that not only drives sales, it also may remind lapsed customers why they liked the chain in the first place.
The Blueberry & Crème Pie may not be a phenomenon like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, but it will have people talking and that should drive bottom-line results for McDonald’s.
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