After a year of flubs, McDonald's gets back to burgers

With sales suffering as a string of novelty menu items missed the mark, the fast-food chain's latest offering is a good old-fashioned sandwich with bacon.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 12, 2014 2:51PM

BMcDonald's Bacon Clubhouse burger (c) McDonald'sy Vanessa Wong, Bloomberg BusinessWeek

You could say 2013 was a year of experimentation for McDonald's (MCD): Fish McBites came out in February, McWraps in March, and Mighty Wings in September—all relative novelty items for the fast-food giant.

Bloomberg Businessweek on MSN MoneyAll that innovation amounted to a 0.2 percent drop in U.S. same-store sales over the year. Maybe that's why for its first permanent addition to the menu in 2014, McDonald's is sticking to basics: a new burger.

The Bacon Clubhouse, available in beef or chicken this week, is the chain's first burger besides the Big Mac to be topped with special sauce. It comes with leaf lettuce --- not the shredded stuff -- and a thick slice of tomato. Taking a cue from Wendy's (WEN) fancy bread strategy, the Clubhouse is served on an "artisan roll." A reviewer on called it "the most satisfying burger I've ever had from McDonald's."

The company recently slowed product launches as it works on improving operations and service. "We acknowledged last year that we probably did things a little bit too quickly in terms of the Egg White Delight and then the McWraps and then the Quarter Pounders with the various toppings," McDonald's Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen said at a conference on Tuesday, "and that was a big stress to the restaurants."

As part of its turnaround, McDonald's plans to "refocus on the core," Bensen added -- meaning favorites like the Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, French fries, Chicken McNuggets -- as well as breakfast. Any new items introduced this year will be easier to prepare with the chain's new kitchen equipment. McDonald's spokeswoman Tyler Litchenberger says the Bacon Clubhouse Burger will be a "core menu item."

The new sandwich shouldn't be too unfamiliar for McDonald's kitchen workers. Burger Business describes it as basically a Clubhouse Angus -- a sandwich the chain tested in 2012 -- with a quarter-pound patty, lettuce, tomato and a new bun.

The emphasis on sandwiches was also a prominent theme in the new Dollar Menu and More launched in November, which includes new items like the BBQ Ranch Burger, Buffalo Ranch McChicken, Bacon McDouble, Bacon Cheddar McChicken and Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken.

McDonald's 2014 menu pipeline "is designed to introduce new products and limited-time offers at the right pace and price points," Bensen said. Executives are certainly hoping a milder form of menu innovation will go down easier than last year's bold experiments.

More from Bloomberg Businessweek

Mar 12, 2014 3:15PM

Reason #1 why I do not eat at McDonald's :


The sandwich you get on your tray does not resemble the picture above. Not even remotely close.

Mar 12, 2014 3:37PM
LemmyK:    That is absolutely correct.  Those pictures you see on TV or on the store front never matches what you get.  Unfortunately that is true for all fast food places.  I laugh everytime I see a Subway commercial as there is no frigging way one is going to be able to their sandwich to look like that
Mar 12, 2014 3:53PM
They need to start cooking their burgers and not throwing them in a warming bin.  NOthing is more distateful than being in the lobby and see someone take a floppy gray burger want to be out of a warming bin and throw in on a cold bun.  I worked at McDonalds as a teen and the burgers were cooked as customers came in and the buns were heated.  Have we really gotten so lazy that this is a fargone effort to make.  Smashburger is one of my fave places to eat.  The burger is still sizzling when it arrives.  MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
Mar 12, 2014 4:16PM
I wonder how many millions,they spent figuring out,that they should concentrate,on selling good burgers? I would have given them that advice,for a free extra value meal!
Mar 12, 2014 4:25PM
i just went to mcdonalds last week and ordered 2 fish sandwiches and an iced tea and when i got home i had 1 fish sandwich and 2 french fries so i had to turn around and drive back, wait in line again and get what i ordered. how hard is it to fill an order for 2 fish sandwiches and an iced tea? that's why they just get paid minimum wage. they're too stupid to make any more.
Mar 12, 2014 3:51PM

Eating at Mcdonalds is like listening to ABBA.  Everybody says they suck, but won't turn the channel when a song comes on, till somebody else walks into the room. 


We are all quiet suckers for mindless dribble.

Mar 12, 2014 3:50PM
Has anyone noticed that the more McDonalds increases their prices, the lower their earnings and stock price goes.  Could there possibly be a correlation?   Over the past few years, almost every menu item has been increased, some by 20% or more.  They may call it a dollar menu but it would more appropriately be called the $1.19 menu. 
Mar 12, 2014 4:36PM
Mcdonalds  is missing the point, there sales are down because there are too many better tasting restaurants out there and will always be.
Mar 12, 2014 5:47PM
I will preface my statement by acknowledging that fast food is not a healthy choice to make, as the vegan/vegetarian/organic/health food crowd always seems to post this fact on all the fast food articles. 

Now that is out of the way, and we can get on to the larger point. I like to treat myself once every week or so to a tasty indulgent treat, regardless of health concerns, and McDonalds is so far down the list I can't remember the last time I had their food. They have made so many changes (almost all of them bad) over the the past decade that their product is almost unrecognizable to the memories of eating their food in my youth. But the biggest change is not cooking their bigger burgers to order like the old days. Now all the patties are cooked ahead of time and put in warmer/steamer trays which dries out the meat and makes it downright awful. Back in the day the Quarter Pounder with cheese was the best fast food burger on the market, now its a glorified hockey puck. 

If McDonalds really wants to get back to their core business, stop worrying so much about turning over customers in record time and pay a little more attention to quality control (ie: taste).
Mar 12, 2014 7:01PM
When I was a youngster way back in 1970 McD's was a real treat, the nearest one was 25 miles away.  Not every town had one let alone three or four.  We used to joke here in Wisconsin if the town sign says population unincorporated it means "no McDonalds".  When I say treat, it was back in those days as Dad and Mom didn't bring home a huge pay check back then.  McDonalds used to have the best fries and pretty good chocolate shakes.  I miss the taste of the fries when they were cooked in lard!  The sandwiches today are nothing like back then, they are not even fit to eat.
Mar 12, 2014 3:54PM
it's called Fast Food - it should be cheap and filling - quality has nothing to do with it! It's why the only things I get are on the Dollar Menu!
Mar 12, 2014 3:44PM

Lemmy K and dacruiser

you are correct, I have a friend that used to do marketing photography gigs for a lot of big name food companies.  She told me that they would spray paint the burgers and condiments or simply use the plastic or wax representatives for burgers, the one that was weirdest to me, the cereal commercials on TV, They use White Elmer's Glue to represent the milk on the cereal, you know how there is always a few drops of "Milk" on the flakes just sitting there! 

Mar 12, 2014 4:47PM
Perhaps they should bring back the angus third pounder burgers. they had the best flavor of any mcdonald's burger I've ever had....well actually the only burger that has had any flavor without the need for sauces.
Mar 12, 2014 3:49PM
"Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us."  Maybe not, but theyprobably still won't get it right!  And, for heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't say, "hold the salt."  That really confuses them.
Mar 12, 2014 4:30PM

Just make a great hamburger for a decent price. Those who think they should be able to eat everything for a dollar can go to a soup kitchen.

Mar 12, 2014 6:41PM
My message to McD.  Stick to what worked for you in the past.  Stop trying to be everything for everybody.  Go back 10 years and STOP!  Go back to the old grill when ordered system, instead of the awful "warming bins".  

Same message for Taco Bell.  They used to have great, fast food.  Anyone remember the "enchirito" or "Beefy Tostado"?  Those were awesome, but you can't get them anymore.  Time to look back and do what you do best.  
Mar 12, 2014 4:15PM
And here I thought they always sold burgers... silly me!   Oh wait, this one has bacon?  Stop the Presses!!!
Mar 12, 2014 6:32PM
I don't know what McDonalds was thinking on their so-called mighty wings. They weren't that mighty and cost double what most other places charge.
Mar 12, 2014 5:10PM
Bring out a hot dog. They seem to go with burgers.
Mar 12, 2014 3:55PM

All mainstream and chain restraunts pay big money to advertising agencies to make the food in those commercials look so good and the portions tend to look larger. Not to mention the majority (I said MAJORITY.. not all) of the younger generation of kids working in those fast food restraunts do not know what it is to have pride in their work. We all know the pay is not competitive, the tempo is usually pretty fast paced, there may only be one manager to run the kitchen, serving area, dining area and of course tackle the administrative tasks as well.


Also, really take a look at McDonald's... They don't know food at all - They know real estate. their food is not good but every location they put a restraunt is a winner. It's about the real estate. The location brings them the business.

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