McDonald's unveils a cautious menu for change

McDonald's will introduce new menu items in Australia this week as it tries to reverse sliding global sales. But the burger giant isn't taking too many chances. 

Charles Platiau/Reuters/File
A McDonalds fast food restauran near the entrance of a Metro station in Paris.

Later this week, McDonald’s will introduce new items to its menu in Australia. The makeup of these items reflect the careful, new-but-not-innovative thinking the chain is applying globally as it spends 2015 seating new management and trying to reverse its sales slide and once again post positive sales growth.  

The centerpiece of the new Aussie menu, according to sources, will be the return of the Chicken Bacon Deluxe. Dropped from the menu there during a purge of upscale items in April 2013, the sandwich is simply the standard crispy or grilled chicken patties with bacon, tomato, Swiss cheese and mayo. That gives it two currently important elements: proven popularity (it came back as an LTO in March 2014 as well) and ingredients already on hand (i.e. kitchen efficient).

Two other chicken sandwiches will join the Aussie menu this week, and both follow the new-but-not-different path. A Spicy Chicken Jalapeňo burger and a Southwest Chicken BLT will arrive, neither needing any new SKUs. Nor will the new chicken, bacon and egg tortilla rollups coming to the breakfast menu.

Under McDonald’s newfound desire to keep the menu lean, when something comes, something goes. Three chicken items leaving the menu are the McChamp (notable for a one-two sauce punch of mayo and tangy relish), the McGrilled and the Chicken & Honey Soy McWraps (chicken lettuce, crunchy noodles, honey soy sauce and aïoli).

McDonald’s tipped its intention to pursue a similarly restrained menu here when it recently began testing a Jalapeňo McChicken, which is nothing more than the jalapeňos from the Jalapeňo Double plopped onto the McChicken. Voila! A new-but-not-innovative item. Even if McDonald’s does finally offer its 1955 Burger here this year, it won’t violate the new strictures: It’s simply a quarter-pound patty with barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato and caramelized onion, all of which we’ve seen before in various combinations. Marketing noise likely will come from small discounts of the “2 for” variety and from new McFlurry add-ins rather than splashy, truly new menu additions.

McDonald’s USA execs should note, however, that the Australian operation hasn’t completely ruled out innovation. At its The Corner café prototype in test, the latest menu item was waffles drizzled with chocolate. They reportedly did well.

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