- The National Owners Association, McDonald's independent franchisee advocacy group, is pushing for corporate to retain the chain's limited menu, which was pared down during the novel coronavirus pandemic, even as restaurants begin to reopen, according to Nation's Restaurant News. “The limited menu and ease of operations are allowing our teams to focus and provide blazing fast service,” Blake Casper, NOA president, told members last week. “We are convinced. Keeping our menus simplified is your NOA’s number one priority.”
- “Our temporary limited menu has helped us provide the best possible customer experience while simplifying operations in our kitchens and for our crew during the pandemic,” McDonald's told Nation's Restaurant News. “We are partnering closely with our franchisees to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on restaurant operations and evaluate the best path forward for our national menu.”
- CEO Chris Kempczinski said during McDonald's Q1 earnings call in late April that maintaining a limited menu would depend on the market restaurants are in. “Maybe we want to go back in more of a staged way and add some items, but not all items,” he said.
Now that restaurants are beginning to return to “normal” operations as social distancing restrictions ease across states, McDonald's operators want to make the efficiencies gained during COVID-19 a permanent model.
In late March, the QSR giant temporarily pulled its all-day breakfast menu and pared down its offerings to include only its most popular menu items to keep U.S. operations nimble amid the economic pressure of the coronavirus. The shorter menu revealed other benefits.
“We are seeing improved sales throughout the country,” Casper told NOA Members. “Our teams are doing amazing work in our drive-thrus.”
But permanently nixing its all-day breakfast, even just in select markets, would be a big strategy change for McDonald's. The company launched the menu in 2015, and it's been a significant growth driver for the chain over the past five years. But McDonald's already began to slowly give operators more control over the breakfast daypart last summer, allowing franchisees to choose which items to include on the all-day menu and for what hours. Now that the "breakfast wars" the industry was ramping up for following Wendy's breakfast launch has been upended by coronavirus, it would make sense for McDonald's to value speed at the drive-thru over maintaining an extensive breakfast menu.
Drive-thrus are, after all, what helped QSRs outperform competitors in other categories that were more seriously impacted by dining room closures. Experts are predicting that the past few months could permanently alter the way consumers eat out, and studies are finding that many diners aren't yet comfortable with returning to dining rooms. So keeping a trimmed menu to expedite wait times in this channel may be a savvy move for McDonald's and the fast food segment overall.