McDonald’s rarely changes its menu. The Chicago chain has sort of pioneered reliability, but mixed that with limited-time offers and special items designed to excite regulars and bring back longtime fans.
The fast food leader has also created a model that very few other companies use. Instead of a predictable schedule like Starbucks (SBUX) – Get the Starbucks Corporation Report, which releases seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Spice Latte at about the same time each year, McDonald’s has kept its schedule for limited-time offerings unpredictable.
That was most evident with the McRib, a sandwich that appears randomly on menus. McDonald’s actually has a method for its madness with McRib. It brings the sandwich back when the price of the pork scraps it uses to make the rib patty makes sense to the chain.
However, being unpredictable with its availability, the McRib has become a cult favorite that fans across the country follow. There is literally a McRib Tracker website that allows fans to track where the popular treat has reached a menu, and its return brings the chain free publicity both nationally and locally.
Now McDonald’s wants to do the same with a limited-time dessert offer.
McDonald’s goes beyond apple pie
Apple pie is a staple of McDonald’s dessert menu. The company has a limited dessert menu based primarily on soft serve ice cream, but it has always offered steaming, hot, hand-baked versions of the classic American dessert.
Now the classic apple on select McDonald’s menus is accompanied by a take on a blueberry pie. The Blueberry & Crème Pie, which Chewboom said last appeared on the chain’s menu in 2017, “contains blueberries and vanilla-flavored cream baked side-by-side in a flaky, sugar-coated, baked crust.”
Like the McRib, the Blueberry & Crème Pie will only appear at select McDonald’s locations for a limited time.
What is McDonald’s business logic behind LTOs?
Fast food chains face huge competition for customers and want to maximize revenue from regular customers. For example, when Starbucks brings back the pumpkin-spiced latte, it entices run-down or infrequent visitors to return to its stores, while also encouraging regulars to spend more money.
“[Limited-time offers] effectively creating the promise of an ephemeral and scarce opportunity, and that creates a sense of urgency among consumers,” said Matt MacInnis of Modern Restaurant Management.
“The allure of a unique experience brings out the competitive spirit in people, so it’s no wonder 50% of Millennials and Generation X customers are racing to be the first in their group of friends to try a new LTO — and this at social media documents. Or brag about it on the couch.”
In short, McDonald’s — which has a predictable and familiar menu — gives its audience and even non-customers a fear of missing out. People talk about the McRib and the Blueberry & Crème Pie, phenomena that people want to be part of.
FOMO drives people to stores, and that not only drives sales, it can also remind lapsed customers why they liked the chain in the first place.
The Blueberry & Crème Pie may not be a phenomenon like Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, but people will be talking about it and that should get the results for McDonald’s.