McDonald's wants to serve a bigger burger

The fast-food giant says it plans to test larger burgers in a couple of global markets to find an option that could work around the world.
Double bacon quarter pounder
McDonald's has offered larger burgers, such as Double Quarter Pounders with Bacon. But it wants to do more. | Photo courtesy of McDonald's.

The Quarter Pounder is apparently not big enough for McDonald’s.

The Chicago-based fast-food giant wants to push its way into the market for larger-sized burgers, not just in the U.S. but in other key markets across the globe.

“The opportunity is significant” for a “large, more satiating type burger,” Ian Borden, McDonald’s CFO, said at the UBS Global Consumer and Retail Conference on Wednesday, according to a transcript on the financial services site AlphaSense.

McDonald’s has long tried and failed to generate much traction for a unique, premium burger, with a long history of premium burgers that would end up on the scrap heap amid poor sales and menu simplification initiatives.

Premium burgers, from the classic McDLT to the Arch Deluxe to the more recent Angus third-pounder burger, were never able to remain on the menu for more than a few years.

That issue is not lost on McDonald’s. “We tried to get after this opportunity for a number of years because we thought the opportunity was about premium burger,” Borden said.

But that was “wrong,” he said, and thus “we weren’t successful.”

Rather, the opportunity is simply to offer a larger burger. There is a substantial portion of the fast-food public that wants a larger-sized burger.

That opportunity is in many global markets, not just the U.S. “It’s consistent across many of our large markets,” Borden said.

Thus, McDonald’s has developed a couple of larger burger options that it plans to test in a couple of major markets before debuting them globally.

That’s also a key change for McDonald’s. “In the past you would have seen us try and get after that opportunity in 20 different markets in 20 different ways,” Borden said. “And then you don’t have the ability to build a global equity that you can drive at scale.”

That’s been a major initiative for McDonald’s, which has focused on simplifying its core menu worldwide, using key brands across markets. Thus, the company renamed its premium chicken sandwich in the U.S. the McCrispy, using the same terminology used in global markets. That sandwich is now a $1 billion brand.

To be sure, McDonald’s had larger burgers on its menu for a long time. It recently sold the Double Big Mac, for instance, and has long had Double Quarter Pounders available to meat-loving consumers.

Yet the brand clearly believes there is more opportunity than simple extensions of its existing product base.

For quite some time, McDonald’s has wanted to push further into the better-burger category as fast-casual competitors like Shake Shack, Five Guys, Culver’s and Freddy’s all established a substantial market share around their higher-end burgers.

The burger giant had tried doing this with improvements to its existing lineup, starting with fresh Quarter Pounders and then with modest upgrades made to items made with the smaller, tenth-pound burgers, including the Big Mac.

But it now believes that the opportunity lies with a larger burger.  

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