Are Burgers Still King?

Discussion
Feb 16, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


It sounds implausible, but will there come a day when McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food hamburger restaurants sell more chicken than beef?


That may never happen, but it is clear from the numbers included in a USA Today report that consumers are increasingly looking to the national chains and local burger joints for chicken.


Today, 60 percent of chicken bought by consumers in restaurants is through fast feeders. The National Chicken Council says chicken strip sales in fast food restaurants was up 12.5 percent for the one-year period ending Nov. 2004.


McDonald’s is looking to build on this momentum with a national sampling program of its Chicken Selects breast strips. The chain plans to hand out more than 4 million samples between tomorrow and Sunday.


Ron Paul, president of Technomic, told USA Today, “McDonald’s is preparing for the end of America’s love of the burger. The low-carb fad has slowed — and so will burger sales.”


Christopher Muller, director of the Center for Multi-Unit Restaurant Management at the University of Central Florida, said of McDonald’s Chicken Selects sampling program. “It will help McDonald’s capture traffic from competitors,” he said. “It will nudge some consumers to switch.”


Moderator’s Comment: Will McDonald’s sampling program be successful in bringing in new consumers to its restaurants to purchase Chicken Selects and other
chicken-based menu items? What lessons are there in this for others in foodservice and retail looking to build chicken or other product sales?


Wade Thoma, vice president of U.S. menu management for McDonald’s said, “People still think of us as a burger place. It will take a long time to convince
people we’re a great chicken place, too.”


According to the National Chicken Council, the typical American will eat 87.5 pounds of chicken this year, up from 78 pounds in 2000.
George Anderson – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Are Burgers Still King?"


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David Livingston
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I hope the execs at Chick-fil-A are gloating (to themselves of course) after hearing this. I’m glad Dr. Banks pointed out they have been doing this for years. Or to better phrase it, they have been doing it correctly for many years. McDonald’s is getting to where they have a bigger menu than one of those independent Greek restaurants. Last week, I was in an Ohio McDonald’s and got a grilled turkey sandwich. In Canada, I got a veggieburger. My advice to McDonald’s is to get back to selling what you do best. Perhaps add two sissy items to the menu, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago

There’s nothing new under the sun. Chick-fil-A has sampled chicken successfully for years.

When evaluating moves made by McD’s, one must always connect them to other moves they’ve made during the previous eighteen months, and to moves planned for the future. Everything is part of a carefully planned continuum. They initiate no stand-alone promotions. Each newly-announced initiative is simply the next logical step in their long-term growth plan.

The fact that McD’s is emphasizing chicken in this way at this time means that their R&D has concocted just the right flavorings, marinades, and idiot-proof preparation guidelines; that consumer research is complete and positive; and that they’ve locked-in reliable suppliers to provide the required inventory.

The lesson for others in foodservice is to do the work required to be a leader, or closely follow established leaders like McD’s. They know what they’re doing.

Steve Weiss
Guest
Steve Weiss
15 years 9 months ago

In times of commodities inflation, such as in the present period, chicken always seems to become magically attractive to operators and consumers alike. In truth, chicken is a less expensive protein to produce than beef and its promotion becomes a financial imperative under certain economic conditions. The good lord willing, the economy will improve for everyone and beef will be back center plate.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 9 months ago

Move over, Bossy, the time has come
To let the defeathered broiler hum.
You’ve ruled the “beltways” for many years
And brought good nutritionists to tears.

The question is: “Are Burgers Still King?”
It makes folks like Tyson grin and sing.
Mac’s sampling treats have quickened the beat
And the Chicken Council is now in heat.

What lessons come from this paradigm?
Is chicken now in the light of lime?
Stay tuned for more clatter and chatter
On which makes one’s ‘bottom line’ fatter.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

The success of Chicken McNuggets over these past two decades has shown that McDonald’s has moved (and can continue to move) from being a “burger place” to an “all around junk food place.” Good for them. Chicken Selects (and other non-burger sandwich items) represent small steps in this continuing evolution. The challenge is whether they can ever shake the junk food reputation and become a destination for “real” food. Their dismal performance with salads is an indication that they’re far from it. Giving out free Chicken Selects is not going to help very much in this regard.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 9 months ago

The fast food industry suffers from a perception problem – lower quality food served in a non-event manner. This means their only premise for being is convenience. Convenience alone will not allow them to achieve the profitable volume needed to sustain the fast-food industry. C-Stores are already capable of delivering the convenience factor. To survive, fast-food must be able to create quality and or create an eating experience that is an experience. McDonald’s is choosing quality, and over the past two years they’ve been making major strides in this, however perceptions are difficult to change so it will take a lot more than just a few sampling events. What this translates into is that the competitive set for the fast-food industry is the c-store channel, and vice-versa.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 9 months ago

Any business–retail or foodservice–that expands their portfolio of offerings is doing the right thing. I would go so far as to say it’s an absolute necessity. Even Starbucks knows it can’t just sell coffee.

However, chicken strips, nuggets, lips–or any part of the chicken they sell is simply an alternative, not a replacement for the burger. People want alternative menus and anyone who doesn’t provide them is begging customers to go somewhere else.

However, any discussion of the burger’s future should not be based on dietary or nutritional content. The burger has an image. It is part of Americana–as American as apple pie, if you’ll excuse the cliché. It is comfort food in disquieting times. As such, it is not going to be eliminated from American’s diets. I’m all for choice. But maybe the fast feeders should start looking for ways to make what they have better.

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