Will “Mighty Wings” Be a Mighty Change for McDonald’s?

With Chicken McNuggets, Chicken Selects, Spicy Chicken McBites, and an array of Chicken sandwiches already on McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) menu, a further poultry addition may seem unnecessary, but the fast food restaurant could be adding “Mighty Wings” to its chicken menu. Following a successful run in Atlanta, the company will be testing its newest offering in Chicago beginning this week.

Since prices for beef will likely set records in 2013 and the hamburger chain’s rivals Burger King (NYSE:BKC) and Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) are updating their menus with an outpouring of new items like snack wraps and fruit smoothies, McDonald’s is looking to make its own improvements. However, its “Mighty Wings” might not be such a mighty addition.

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The primary problem with offering chicken wings is the cost; David Harvey, an agriculture economist who specializes in poultry and eggs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told the Associated Press that the price of chicken wings rose significantly last year as more and more restaurants added them to their menus. In December, the wholesale cost of wings was 26 percent higher than in the previous year. The cost is also much higher when compared to chicken breasts, which sell for approximately 60 cents cheaper per pound…

To circumvent the expense problem, McDonald’s could offer the snack as a specialty item for a limited time period rather than incorporating it as a permanent part of the menu. This strategy would provide the chain an opportunity to give customers more variety. But the initiative would still be dependent on whether the company could purchase wings at a reasonable price. Furthermore, wings may be just too messy. Richard Adams, who heads a consulting firm for franchisees, noted that new menu items are usually unsuccessful if they cannot be eaten easily in the car, as the majority of the company’s food is ordered at the drive-thru.

Another issue is the competition. While this new item may add enough variety to match the changes Burger King and Wendy’s have made to their images and menus, it may not distance McDonald’s from its newer rivals, Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) and Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA), which serve higher-quality food for modestly higher prices.

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