Dollar Menu Double Down: McDonald’s Pumps Up $1 Selections

Amid poor sales, McDonald's is tweaking its Dollar Menu for the second time this year—and this time, $1 items are being added, not taken away.

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It was only in March that McDonald’s revamped its Dollar Menu, removing fries and drinks for a buck with the hopes of getting diners to drop more money on each visit. Now, amid struggling sales, McDonald's is tweaking its Dollar Menu for the second time this year—and this time, $1 items are being added, not taken away.

A month ago, McDonald’s announced that comparable in-store sales decreased 1.8% globally and 2.2% in the U.S. in October. It was the first time since 2003 that such sales declined.

So it should come as little surprise that McDonald’s is shaking things up bit. Lately, news has spread that McDonald’s will be trying to win back customers by pumping up its Dollar Menu with new sandwiches and snacks. A Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger—a smaller, bacon-free version of a limited-time premium burger—will be selling for $1 by year’s end. Fish McBites, a snack akin to popcorn chicken only with fish, will arrive soon after, also for $1.

(MORE: Beyond Deals & Discounts: How Retailers Are Luring in Holiday Shoppers)

What’s particularly interesting is that McDonald’s feels compelled to pump up the Dollar Menu at the same time that low and mid-tier restaurant chains are pushing for much pricier selling points. Lately, Starbucks is selling $7 coffee, the “better burger” movement is placing an emphasis on upscale, higher-priced fare, and the higher-quality “fast casual” approach exhibited most obviously by Chipotle is being applied to restaurants specializing in everything from pizza to grilled cheese.

While McDonald’s franchises agreed to add the new burger and fish snack to their Dollar Menus, they refused to get on board with a plan that would have dropped the price of regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers to 69¢ and 89¢, respectively. Even as things stand, the presence of a robust Dollar Menu would seem to hurt sales of many other menu items, pricier “premium” sandwiches in particular. As Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchisee and current consultant with the Franchise Equity Group, explained things to Nation’s Restaurant News:

“Who would pay $4.79 for a sandwich when the two sandwiches on the Dollar Menu are perfectly good?” he said. “It’s just the math. The more you raise prices, the more you encourage people to buy off the Dollar Menu.”

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Other industry experts also question McDonald’s overuse of the Dollar Menu. Per a Bloomberg News story about how McDonald’s is “Starved for Ideas” and is losing business to Burger King:

“First and foremost, they need to maybe tone down the Dollar Menu,” said Walter Todd, chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina, which owned 22,132 shares of McDonald’s as of Sept. 30. “You can get a double cheeseburger for $1 — why do you want a Quarter Pounder for $3?”

The Dollar Menu isn’t the only well that McDonald’s is going back to in the hopes of boosting diner visits. In September, word leaked that the McRib—the barbecue pork sandwich with a fanatical following at least partly because it only surfaces periodically on the menu—will again show up in McDonald’s restaurants at the end of 2012.

(MORE: McRib Fanatics and the Amazing Power of Limited Availability)

While observers in Michigan and elsewhere have resorted to speculation as to exactly when the McRib might start appearing locally, “lucky” diners in parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Texas have been able to order McRibs for weeks. Don’t go expecting the McRib to pop up on the Dollar Menu anytime soon, however—not when the sandwich has its own Facebook page.

15 comments
DanMan'99
DanMan'99

And anyway, I hardly ever eat at McDonald's. There's enough decently priced food from local restaurants here in Philly (and other urban areas) that I could order something and know exactly what I'm getting.

DanMan'99
DanMan'99

I agree with the point made.  It seems strange that they have the dollar menu existing alongside "premium" sandwiches. Who would buy a big mac if the could get a mcdouble and just put some lettuce and tomatoes on it at home? Also, Chik File and Burger King are just plain BETTER. Food, customer service, everything...better.

FrostKainoa
FrostKainoa like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wow! McD... I haven't been eating that for 9 years, the foods are awful anyway.

DennaKatarra
DennaKatarra

When we want burgers we cook them ourselves as not to get crap. We know what we are eating.

FuzzyElephants
FuzzyElephants like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hey McD's here's a marketing idea for your restaurants... why not try serving food?

Taxpayer
Taxpayer

They discontinued the frozen Strawberry Lemonade.  I liked it.  Too sweet, but it hits the spot.  :(

adriana28
adriana28

Instead of changing a menu they should change the attitude and have people that know what they are doing....service at most McDonald's is HORRIBLE!

Taxpayer
Taxpayer

@adriana28 

 McDonalds is hit or miss with customer service.  I have a really busy one near home.  Customer service is average.  I have one near work -awful CS, noisy and warm restaurant.  The one near my parents-slowest McD on the planet.  Near the local community college- very surprising fast and great CS.  It just depends. 

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

@adriana28 Seriously, there aren't even WORDS on the registers - there are PICTURES of the condiments and stuff like onions, pickles, etc...

That should tell you something right there!  (I will say, however, that I've had some pretty good customer service at our "local" McD's.)

efrustrated
efrustrated

As an irregular burger eater, I see McD as a real last resort, get you home option. I recently had a Burger King, thinking the same, and was genuinely surprised that I enjoyed it! 

That was 4 months ago, while it wasn't a gourmet experience as such, it still stands out as a tasty burger that I'll seek out next time I'm in that market. 

Perhaps the market has realized that McD is just the lowest form of food available to them as consumers. 

JohnLuma
JohnLuma

Once again the so-called experts have it wrong. "Why would anyone buy a more expensive burger for $4-plus bucks when you can get two good $1-buck burgers or other similar price choices? Uh, I would suggest it's about... TASTE! Those who want cheap have to live with pretty bad TASTE! Those dollar burgers taste like cardboard with onions and ketchup. Simple as that. So there is no risk. If I want TASTE I know I have to pay for it and do so...every single time.

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

@JohnLuma Not only that, but price and specials are dictated by area and franchise owners' participation.  The fam really appreciated it when we could get two Quarter Pounders with cheese for $3 or $4, or a 20 piece McNugg for $5, and who wouldn't love a dollar fry or large drink?

But where I live now...I'll take the two Western Bacons for $5 and buy fries & drinks at the store.  (I do still appreciate the dollar Fruit & Yoghurt Parfait.  I just wish it wasn't so sweet.)

killerdrgn
killerdrgn

@JohnLuma I think the authors meant within McDonalds. Like the big mac is about $4, whereas you can just get 2 cheeseburgers with special sauce for 2 for $2.

JohnLuma
JohnLuma

@killerdrgn @JohnLuma 

Oh I get that, but the same taste difference applies to all. It seems to come down to the old truism, "You get what you pay for."