While rivals Burger King and Wendy’s have relied on menu innovation, McDonald’s has mostly taken a different path.
Burger King really wants your attention. The chain regularly adds new items to its menus including both serious additions like its various takes on a chicken sandwich or its Whopper Melts to novelty Whoppers designed to get media attention.
The Restaurant Brands International (QSR) – Get Free Report burger chain has fallen into third place behind industry leader McDonald’s (MCD) – Get Free Report and upstart (after a fashion) Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Free Report. Both Burger King and Wendy’s have made menu innovation and limited-time offers a key focus while McDonald’s has largely worked on growing its rewards program and digital efforts.
On the menu side, McDonald’s has mostly built around its classic items, CEO Chris Kempczinski explained during the chain’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
“Throughout 2022, some of our most successful campaign platforms brought our customers closer to the core menu items they love. The strength of our brand goes beyond the golden arches themselves and includes our iconic products such as our World Famous French Fries, The Big Mac, or Chicken McNuggets, and the McFlurry. Each of these products are billion-dollar brands. And in total, McDonald’s possesses 10 of these billion-dollar brand equities,” he shared.
Building around classics actually ties into the company’s digital growth goals, Kempczinski explained.
“When customers want to enjoy our classic favorites, they are increasingly looking for even more personalized and convenient ways to get their meals. Through our focus on digital, we are transforming from a brand that serves billions and billions all the same way to one that serves each of our billions of customers uniquely as individuals with customized products, offers, and experiences,” he explained.
Apps and rewards programs, however, aren’t the chain’s sole focus. It does sometimes make a menu change and with St. Patrick’s Day Approaching, the company has plans to bring back a fan favorite as well as a newer take on that classic.
The Shamrock Shake Has a Long History
Back in 1978, Grimace’s Uncle, the aptly-named “Uncle O’Grimacey first appeared to promote what’s now known as the “Shamrock Shake.” The character, which would likely no longer be considered politically correct looks a lot like his famous purple nephew.
“Uncle O’Grimacey is a green grimace. He wears a green cob hat, a vest with shamrocks on it, and carries a shillelagh. Every March, around St. Patrick’s Day, he delivers Shamrock Shakes in McDonaldland. Uncle O’Grimacey is just one of many grimaces in Grimace’s extended family,” wrote the McDonald’s Fan Wiki.
That’s a lot to unpack (Grimace is both his name and his species?) but, as far as the signature shake goes, it has become a seasonal tradition even if its signature spokes-monster has gone away.
McDonald’s Brings Back the Shamrock Shake
While the McDonaldland characters (even the ones who aren’t ethnic stereotypes) have largely been retired, the Shamrock Shake has been brought back each year. This year will first appear Feb. 20 along with a new Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.
“Made with our creamy vanilla soft serve, blended with Shamrock Shake syrup and topped with a delicious, whipped topping, the Shamrock Shake quickly captured the hearts (and tastebuds) of America when it was first introduced in 1970. And for a twist on this delicious classic, check out the Oreo Shamrock McFlurry, which first debuted in 2020 and comes blended with crushed Oreo cookies,” McDonald’s shared in a press release.
While McDonald’s has not changed its menu nearly as much as Burger King or Wendy’s, bringing back the Shamrock Shake actually extends its “bet on the classics” strategy. That’s something Kempczinski talked about during the earnings call.
“In an environment where our customers are looking for the simple and familiar, our core menu items have never been more relevant or beloved. Throughout the year, we continued to step up our game on the favorites that build our heritage,” he said,.
The Shamrock Shake and the Shamrock Oreo McFlurry will be available as of Feb. 20 at participating restaurants nationwide for a limited time, while supplies last.