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Turnaround report: What else is up Ronald McDonald’s sleeve?

mcdonalds exterior

Big Mac has clearly established itself as a preferred choice for all-day breakfast, much to the regret of Jack in the Box (CEO Lenny Comma blamed his chain’s poor fourth-quarter performance on the competition) and, to a lesser extent, Dunkin’ Donuts (Nigel Travis, CEO of parent Dunkin’ Brands, acknowledged a “marginal” impact).

But as McDonald’s execs are quick to acknowledge, the chain still has a long way to go in its turnaround. So what’s next for the mega-brand? Here’s a roundup of what else it’s trying.

A riff on chicken and waffles

chicken mcgriddle

A McDonald’s franchisee in Ohio is using ingredients already in the kitchen to woo fans of a soul food specialty that's gone mainstream: fried chicken served atop a syrup-laced griddle item, like a waffle. The twist is using McDonald’s signature McGriddle, a maple-flavored bun that tastes and even looks somewhat like two pancakes enclosing familiar breakfast ingredients. The franchisee has replaced the egg, bacon and cheese usually sandwiched inside the McGriddle with the fried chicken fillet used for the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich.

The Chicken McGriddle, if it spreads through the chain, would be in addition to the southern-style fried chicken on a biscuit that McDonald’s already offers. That product was seen as a direct response to the gain in market share of Chick-fil-A, whose signature breakfast item is a chicken biscuit.

A new drink line, By McSweets

honey lemon mcshake
 From McDonald's Japan

The odds of this new Japanese option making it to U.S. menus are small, but the new beverages do align with a number of trends here in the domestic market. The first installment in the line is a citrus-y drink that’s been likened to frozen lemonade. But the sweetener is honey rather than sugar, so there’s an almost-natural halo to the product. It’s also made with local-market lemons, and carries a bargain price—the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.

The drink is a riff on hachimitsu lemon, a common thirst quencher in Japan. And the wide availability in the U.S. of drinks like bubble tea and green tea proves Americans are willing to try more exotic libations from Asia.

The lemon-honey drink will be offered as a limited-time option, but local press reports suggests that the By McSweets line could be maintained through the introduction of other sweetened beverages.

Beer

A McDonald’s about to open in South Korea will allow customers who order a certain premium burger as part of a bundled meal to replace the soft drink with a brew for a slight upcharge. The alcohol is only offered to buyers of the Signature Burger meal, and there’s a limit of one beer per customer.

The unit will not be the first McDonald’s restaurant to serve alcohol, nor even the first in Asia (though the Hong Kong store that offered suds has since closed).

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