Waffle tacos and ribs: Rivals go after McDonald's

The new offerings are about to make the fast-food landscape even more hostile for Ronald and company.

By Jason Notte May 14, 2013 4:26PM
Credit: © PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Caption: McDonalds' McRib sandwichIf McDonald's (MCD) thought that dropping chicken wraps, salads, Angus burgers and other high-end items from the menu would keep competitors at bay, wait until they see who's seized the low ground.

Just as McDonald's started plying China with Egg McMuffins and teasing Americans with the prospect of all-day breakfast, Yum Brands (YUM) strikes back through its Taco Bell restaurants by testing a fried, scrambled-egg-and-sausage-stuffed waffle taco on the breakfast menu in select California markets. At 89 cents, it's even cheaper than the items on Taco Bell's prototype value menu that's being prepped to go head-to-head with McDonald's Dollar Menu.

This might tempt McDonald's to go nuclear and relaunch the McRib sandwich (pictured) yet again to shore up numbers. Even that sandwich has prompted a fast-food arms race, however, as Burger Business notes that Burger King (BKW) is including a boneless rib sandwich of its own in a limited-time summer menu that also includes a Carolina BBQ sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries.

This is the corner McDonald's has been backed into. McDonald's first-quarter same-store sales, a key restaurant metric of sales at locations open for at least one year, were off 1% worldwide. While the chain cites the loss of an extra sales day from 2012's leap year, the spit-take reaction to its new Fish McBites here in the States and competition from fast-casual chains like Panera Bread (PNRA) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) certainly haven't helped.

Instead of turning competitors' strengths against them, as it did with Starbucks (SBUX) and Jamba Juice (JMBA) by launching McCafe coffee drinks and smoothies a few years back, McDonald's is now forced to react to its foes' slightest tweaks as costs rise. Angus burgers get replaced with cheaper Quarter Pounder styles. Its CEO starts pondering delivery at shops in some U.S. cities after Burger King launched delivery service last year.

With Panera, Chipotle, Five Guys and In-N-Out Burger battling McDonald's for the high end of the fast-food market as Taco Bell keeps filling the basement with Doritos Locos taco shells, McDonald's is feeling the pinch. Now that it has to battle for breakfast and battle a McRib competitor, it has to make a choice: deep reinventing away from its original model or going back to its burgers-and-fries roots. Its roads in both directions are looking pretty clogged.

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May 14, 2013 6:41PM

The McRib was great, about 10 years ago.  Now it's like all of McD's food - bland and poorly made. 



Most everything on their menu tastes great if you're drunk or stoned at 3am.  Otherwise, eat somewhere else.

May 14, 2013 6:11PM
May 15, 2013 11:42AM
What a stupid article.  Typical bait for McD bashing with limited or no knowledge of their topic.  McD didn't drop chicken wraps.  They still have the chicken snack wraps and they just introduced a new line of larger chicken wraps.  Nor did they drop salads.  They are moving away from under performing Angus burgers and introducing a new line of quarter pounders with various new toppings.  Seems to me that everytime I look at a fast food commercial someone is basically copying whatever McD has done months ago.  I am a stockholder and I read unlike these so called journalists that like to agitate.
May 14, 2013 5:39PM
That pic of the McRib just made me hungry
May 15, 2013 4:45PM
I hate McD's but I would eat thier McGriddles or Sausage Egg McMuffin all the time if they did not stop selling them at 10am.
May 15, 2013 2:05PM
Mcdonald's McRibs gives you the sqirts.
May 15, 2013 2:08PM

Didn't Burger King have that pulled pork sandwich last summer?  How is the introduction of a boneless rib sandwich seizing "the low ground"?  Because McDonalds had a rib sandwich first and BK is "copying" them?  Didn't McD do essentially that with the McCafe coffees and smoothies? 


I always preferred the food at BK over McD but the prices were too high.

May 15, 2013 5:48PM
I didn't eat out for a long while last year due to having to cut back financially and I tried eating at McD's a month ago and it tasted AWFUL! I did try a bite of a friends McGriddle and that still tasted fine, but other then breakfast it just tastes gross to me now. McD's had better think of a new strategy which involves better food (for you and taste).
May 14, 2013 6:10PM
The Mcrib is the bomb and in my area it was selling for 3.99 with a medium combo.

Mcdonalds I love u and I hate u!

May 16, 2013 3:35PM
Oh and don't forget Chicken McNuggets, and basically any fast food chicken product uses a mechanically processed chicken goop.  Basically an entire chicken is processed into a disgusting pile of ugh.  It has to be soaked in ammonia to get rid of the bacteria.  They then flavor it with chicken like flavoring.  That's not all.  In order to hold the slop together, they use the same ingredient that's in silly putty.  I couldn't even make this up if I wanted to.  Just do your research and you'll see the same thing as I did.  Only eat real food.  Sugar sodas, chemical chicken, and rotten non real food is what's killing us all with the highest cancer rate in the world.  Basically if it is advertised or preprocessed food at the store, with a label.  You don't want it.  I am only saying this because I have seen these things up close and personal.  Corporate Food is not your friend. 
May 15, 2013 11:35AM
there was an article a while back that told how the McRib was made
and what was in it. It stated that in making the McRib, TRIPE (Stomach lining),
and other parts that have nothing to do with rib meat were pressed and used to make these little nuggets of goodness.
      Not in a million years wouls I eat at McD's............

May 15, 2013 3:28PM
had the mcrib years ago when it first came out. i fell in love with it. had one agsin a couple years ago when it was reintroduced. it was gross and nasty. will make my own at home! hope BK can deliver the goods. if well made and consistant, it will be a winner. i dont like hamburgers and most fast food in general, but i will give this a shot. once.
May 17, 2013 10:11AM
McDonald's should have a McTaco.......I personally want to try the Taco Bell breakfast waffle taco.
May 16, 2013 2:17PM
McD should be more worried about place like Red Robin then BK. It might be sit down but there not slow with getting your food to you
May 16, 2013 2:03AM
Chicken Mc Nuggets would taste better with sweet baby rays as a dipping sauce, and I kind of wish they would offer the grimace shakes again. And I really miss my Ham burglar doll from childhood. other than that, I like whoppers!!, and spent many a teenage post concert night at in and out in Cali,(girl watching) still got my in n out urges bumper sticker. So war or no war of the Burgermiesters they all end up winning someone's taste buds sooner or later.
May 15, 2013 6:16PM
It'd be nice if McDonalds would just sell burgers and the hell with the rest.  Pretty soon, every one will have to McSit at a McTable, and McOrder just like at every other restaurant.  I'm waiting for McSpaghetti and McBalls.  Also they're going to launch the McDick.. a huge sausage customers can pull themselves. 
May 16, 2013 3:33PM
Gee I wonder how much horse meat will be included in their version?  Burger King has finally truly admitted they have used horsemeat in their burgers.  Shame.
May 15, 2013 3:45PM
From a marketing standpoint McD's just leaves me scratching my head. From what I understand the McBites this spring were ridiculously popular - especially the snack size - but there are no plans to bring it back. Ever. You want people to choose your side of the street? Offer something you can't get at the other fast food restaurants, McDoofuses.
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