UPDATE: Oct. 1, 2020: This article has been updated to include a statement from McDonald's.
- McDonald’s is running out of its Spicy Chicken McNuggets, Mighty Hot Sauce and Chips Ahoy McFlurry two weeks after the three new menu items made their debut on Sept. 16. The QSR anticipates most restaurants nationwide will be sold out of these limited-time menu items in the coming days.
- "We’re thrilled with the positive response to these limited-time offerings. If our customers truly can’t get enough, there’s always a chance we’ll bring limited-time menu items back in the future," McDonald's said in an emailed statement.
- The Spicy Chicken McNuggets were the first flavor change to the chain’s traditional Chicken McNuggets since the product debuted in 1983. Consumer interest in the spicy chicken product echoes the fervor of the "chicken sandwich wars" that began in fall of 2019 when Popeyes debuted its spicy chicken sandwich, ushering similar menu items from McDonald's.
The Spicy Chicken McNugget is the second consecutive McDonald's promotion in less than a month to experience shortages, following the popularity of the Travis Scott Meal in early September. That LTO led to a shortage in Quarter Pounders, and the chain had to control the supply of some of the meal's required ingredients to ensure availability.
McDonald's teased to Business Insider that it could possibly bring back the Spicy Chicken McNuggets LTO in the future, which would take a page not only from its McRib playbook but also from rival Wendy’s, which brought back its own spicy nuggets LTO offering back after Chance the Rapper's call for the menu item's return on social media. Limited-time offers can create buzz and pent-up demand among consumers, who know they only have a short window to indulge.
"When you have exclusive products, which exist for a short period of time, it gives people a reason to come to the store," Alexander Chernev, professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, told CNN Business last year.
McDonald's had strong plans in place to promote its most recent limited-time offers, which may have further enticed customers. The chain launched "Spicesurance," a buy-one-get-one deal for customers who downloaded the chain's app, to amplify the launch of the Spicy Chicken McNuggets. McDelivery on Uber Eats also gave customers a free, 10-piece order of the LTO with a $20 minimum purchase.
McDonald's isn't the only chain navigating supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in the crisis, Wendy’s experienced shortages in its fresh beef supply and shifted its marketing focus to chicken.
However, as CNBC reports, supply chain shortages for McDonald’s are rare — the chain has earned awards for its supply chain efficiency. But a few macro-level factors could be creating a bigger challenge this time around. For starters, chicken is in high demand, as evidenced by Popeyes' wild success and shortages of its own as a result last year. That demand is even higher for spicy chicken, it appears. According to Grubhub's "State of the Plate" report for 2020, for example, spicy chicken sandwich orders grew by nearly 300% year-over-year.
Then there's the demand for fast food in general. As many sit-down concepts remain partially or fully closed, and as some consumers remain anxious about dining out, fast food brands with drive-thrus have remained largely insulated from much of the pandemic's disruption. That presents a sales advantage, which has been reflected by McDonald's recent performance. In April, for example, the chain's sales were down by 19%. In June, same-store sales were down by only 2.3%.