Is McDonald’s Planning to Streamline Its Menu?

What matters most to McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) customers? It is food quality, service, variety, or speed? The fast-food giant is still trying to answer that question, and with its U.S. sales dropping and its fierce competitors ever on its heels, McDonald’s is working fast and making big moves to get to the bottom of it.

McDonald’s announced last week that it would be cleaving the Angus burger from its menu, and the world’s largest restaurant chain may not be done making cuts. Bloomberg reports that according to a franchisee e-mail it obtained, Caesar salads, the McSkillet Burrito, the Southern Style Biscuit, and steak bagels may also be on the chopping block, in an attempt to taper its menu so that better food quality and service can be revived.

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Since 2007, McDonald’s menu has expanded by 70 percent and increased by about 60 items, currently selling 145. Unfortunately, this increasingly complex menu spoils its customers with choice, and also slows down service at a company that prides itself on its “fast food.” Richard Adams, a San Diego-based restaurant franchisee consultant and former McDonald’s store owner, explains, “It’s gotten to the point where the operation has kind of broken down, and that’s all a symptom of the complication of the menu … They can’t make the food fast enough.”

And don’t forget that the speed of that food is not only important at the counter, but also at the drive-thu. Fast-food chains compete fiercely not only for their big ticket items, but also for their drive-thu times. Bloomberg reports that a study by QSR Magazine and Insula Research Inc. elucidates that not only does it take longer to get through the McDonald’s drive-thru than it used to, but Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) and Taco Bell’s (NYSE:YUM) times are faster.

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Thus, although an expansive menu is appreciated by customers, its labor-intensive new items are taking the fast out of “fast-food.” Other chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE:CMG) and In-N-Out Burger also prove that a complex menu is not necessary for success. However, as Burger King Inc. (NYSE:BKW) and Wendy’s continue to introduce big items, including those that are suspiciously similar to the big names at McDonald’s, it is difficult to make the decision to pull back rather than roll out. Nonetheless, don’t be surprised if in the near future, your favorite items are conspicuously absent from McDonald’s menu.

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