Is the McWrap McDonald's secret weapon?

The new offering from the fast-food chain is another attempt to match Chipotle's and Five Guys' fresh products.

By Jason Notte Jul 5, 2013 7:14AM
McDonald's new chicken McWrap sandwich wrap (© AP Photo/McDonald's)Never mind the slumping same-store sales, the trims to its sprawling, directionless menu and the advances by competitors that have embraced their fast-food roots: McDonald's (MCD) is just a McWrap away from dominance.

At least that's what a four-page spread from Bloomberg Businessweek would like you to believe. The thesis behind this tome is that the April 1 release of the Premium McWrap -- a 10-inch, white-flour tortilla wrapped around three ounces of chicken (grilled or "crispy"), lettuce, spring greens, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and cheddar jack cheese that McDonald's has been working on for two years -- will win McDonald's the love of the coveted millennial market and fend off Five Guys, Chipotle (CMG) and Subway.

After all, even McDonald's says so, with an internal memo obtained by Ad Age noting that Mickey D's doesn't even rank among millennials' top 10 favorite restaurants and that the "Subway buster" McWrap "offers us the perfect food offering to address the needs of this very important customer to McDonald’s."

Except that McDonald's has already tried this approach with Snack Wraps, Chicken Selects, burritos, salads, Angus burgers and other "premium" items.

The overwhelming majority of those have been kicked off the menu by franchise owners who say the items are slowing down their kitchens. The premium "value menu," meanwhile, has been replaced by the cheaper dollar menu in hopes of wooing back customers who've been picked off by other, more traditional fast-food chains.

Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell is offering waffle tacos as part of a new breakfast menu and testing a new value menu packed with $1 items. Burger King (BKW) is basically cloning the McRib boneless rib sandwich while offering delivery service in major cities.

Where Bloomberg and certain factions within McDonald's see the McWrap as a strength, even the company's chief executive, Don Thompson, suggests embracing delivery and all-day breakfast may be the better route to customers' hearts and stomachs. The "breakfast after midnight" menu the company is testing in select markets is already pushing that notion.

Despite trying those ideas, menu tweaks like popcorn chicken and suggestions that employees be kinder to customers, same-store sales declined 1% in the first quarter even as McDonald's share price rose. It wasn't that long ago that McDonald's was much better at this, fending off upstart competitors like Jamba Juice (JMBA) and Starbucks (SBUX) with its own McCafe smoothie and coffee offerings.

When it came to countering the fresh offerings of Chipotle and Panera Bread (PNRA), however, feeble efforts like Fish McBites have fallen flat. Even the long-abandoned McDLT of the 1980s with its separate compartments for the burger and its fresh toppings was closer to the mark than what McDonald's is offering now.

McDonald's has spent too long trying to be everything but the fast-food chain it is. By outwardly playing catch-up with smaller competitors and losing ground to fast-food companies it no longer deigns to consider rivals, McDonald's looks very uncomfortable in its own skin. Even if it follows its CEO's advice and plays to its strengths, it's not clear if the chain knows what those strengths are anymore.

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Jul 5, 2013 10:30AM
I stopped going to 5 guys, their prices are way over the top.  McD is not the best but at least their prices fall in line with what you are getting.
Jul 5, 2013 10:19AM
I would be a regular customer if they would sell their breakfast sandwiches all day long. They keep coming up with reasons why they can't ~ in the beginning there were plenty of reasons why a food chain that sold inexpensive burgers to go could not be done too ~
Jul 5, 2013 12:20PM
The other day I went to McDonalds (Danville, Indiana) to get a breakfast sandwich.  The young girl behind the counter obviously had no clue how to put orders in.  After giving her my order (for two items) twice, a manager came up and told her she had no business being on the register.  She walked away.  Another teen, a young man, came up a moment later and asked for my order.  When I told him I gave it to the girl twice already, his response was, "Well, what do you want?".  I spoke to the manager who pretty much blew off my concerns. Think I'll go back there again for ANY sandwich?  That and a whole bunch of Mexicans speaking broken English is McDonald's problem, not the menu.
Jul 5, 2013 11:07AM
how about a Mcbeer , or Mcpot ........ now that would be a secret weapon .
Jul 5, 2013 11:09AM
Cheap over processed,  GMO foods that are loaded with chemical preservatives, usually leads to poor health in the future. Eating healthy isn't always cheap, but being sick will cost you a lot more.
Jul 5, 2013 10:28AM

they have this wrap at Wendy's and it tastes better and it is cheaper
Jul 5, 2013 11:03AM
The McWrap is very good. I was supprised when I ordered one and have been back for more. I also like that new egg white McMuffin. Healthy and good. Thier coffee is top notch too.
Jul 5, 2013 11:24AM

The McDonalds in my town makes the best McWraps!   Crisp Bacon, fresh vegies and I cut it in half and have lunch for the next day....which makes it more affordable!  

Jul 5, 2013 11:46AM
I'm not going to complain. They're tying to serve a whole range of desires from all walks of life. If they even cut the sugar in their ketchup by 30-40%, I feel blessed. Ketchup is better when it tastes more like tomato than red licorice.
Jul 5, 2013 12:11PM
McDonalds and Delivery???  I cant even get fresh hot food when I order it right from their drive thru window.  Let alone 10-15 minutes later after the delivery guy drives it to me..
Jul 5, 2013 2:17PM
I only go to McD's for b'fast  and then it's only for an egg mcmuffin and great coffee.  I would go more often if they served b'fast longer!  I go to BK for burgers; much better than McD's!
Jul 5, 2013 12:30PM

My sig other and I rarely go to McDonald's anymore. We like the wraps, but I find that their burgers don't taste like meat... a lot of their items have no flavor, they screw up in the drive thu line a lot, and when you call and complain they say there going to send you coupons for free value meals but they never did.  My 6 year old doesn't even ask to go there anymore... he'd rather go to Burger King, Perkins, or a local restraunt so he can get pancakes even though we go there for dinner, lol.


I'd rather pay a few bucks more and get a good tasting burger from a local restraunt, or Gilly's, etc.... heck, even Kwik Trips burgers are better! I think they need to focus on making their food taste better to get customers back.

Jul 5, 2013 11:27AM
McDonald's is a dying brand. The only reason they are still surviving is because they are literally everywhere. If there were a Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Hardee's, Checker's, Rally's, Carl's Junior, Arby's, Subway, Chipotle, Church's Chicken, Chik-Fil-A, Quizno's, Popeye's, Dairy Queen, Panera, etc. everywhere there was a McD's, who would go to Mickey D's? Every single restaurant has them beat on taste, and the other big players, BK, T-Bell, and Wendy's can beat them when it comes to price/value. 

The best thing McDonald's could do right now, is to just start all over and do what they started out doing in the first place, and do it better than everyone else - burgers, fries, and shakes. No more cheap greasy burgers with dehydrated onions. Real beef patties, grilled, not fried, fresh toppings, gourmet buns, seasoned fries, and real milk shakes, extra thick. Serve breakfast all day, do chicken, and do fish, but do it good. How hard is that? I should have been a CEO...
Jul 5, 2013 10:02AM
I usually just get something to drink out of there now.
Jul 5, 2013 1:56PM
McDonalds lost me decades ago when their fries started tasting like cardboard instead of potatoes. I can understand that they want to keep their menu fresh so customers don't get bored with their food but some of the things they have tried just do not fly. They are like a lot of large corporations that lose their focus on their service and product. They may get lucky and find the right next gimmick but with the fluctuating tastes of the consumer it would only be temporary.
Jul 5, 2013 11:09AM
More important: To buy MORE Stock or not...this newer food item is great & I plan to buy more of each: stock and McW's!!!!
Jul 5, 2013 5:59PM
McDonalds started out as a bbq restaurant and modernized the fast food experience with their original mascot speedee. Burgers put them on the map and it quickly expanded. So why is it that they have so much stuff on the menu and most of it sub par? Why don't they get their act together and go back to grass roots? Make the best damn hamburger ever? Instead, you get a burger that is a cheap commercialized piece of garbage. Leave the Mcwraps and Mcsalads and make a Mcburger that doesn't Mcsuck.
Jul 5, 2013 5:13PM

Their consistent lack of quality in food and service is what drove me away years ago. If I'm going to eat fast food I will pay a little more to get better quality....everytime.

There's not anything I can think of that they can do at this point to earn my business back.

Jul 5, 2013 4:10PM
The McWrap is really good.

N' healthy.
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