McDonald’s Dollar Menu Shakeup: No More Fries and Drinks for $1

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Two staples on McDonald’s Dollar Menu—small fries and small drinks—will soon cost more than $1. Replacing them on the chain’s Dollar Menu are two items that might be considered extras, rather than core parts of the McDonald’s experience: cookies and ice cream cones. Also coming soon to McDonald’s: an “Extra Value Menu” that’s comprised of items that are already on the menu, and that’ll cost the same amount as they do right now.
Reuters broke the news about McDonald’s changes, which include some substitutions in its Dollar Menu and the introduction of a category it is dubbing the “Extra Value Menu.”

On the McDonald’s website, the Dollar Menu page has already been updated. Small fries and small drinks are off the list (and now cost more than $1), and in their place is a small ice cream cone and a package of fresh-baked cookies, which will each cost $1. What’s behind the change? One explanation is that it’s just another move to get a little more money out of customers. The majority of diners go to McDonald’s with fries and refreshing beverages on their minds. So the idea is that they’ll be willing to pay a little more for those items, as well as burgers of course, and then, perhaps, they’ll be enticed into getting a little something extra after their main meal is done. Perhaps some cookies or an ice cream? They only cost $1 apiece, after all.

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Two sandwiches, the McDouble and McChicken, remain on the Dollar Menu, as do a couple of items that most would consider complementary to the main meal: Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait and Side Salad. More and more, then, it looks like Dollar Menu items are part of a simple upsell strategy. The goal is to get customers to spend more, not to save.

As for the “Extra Value Menu,” it’s set to launch on March 26. The items on this part of the menu include 20-piece chicken McNuggets, Angus snack wraps, snack-size McFlurries, chicken snack wraps, medium iced coffees, and double cheeseburgers. None of these items are new to the menu, and none of prices for these items are changing either. They’ll all cost more than $1, though many will cost under $2. Per Reuters:

“The choices have been available for quite some time, we’re just making it easier for customers to find them and enjoy them,” [chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA Neil] Golden said, adding that the prices on those items will not change.

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If neither the items nor the prices are new, what’s the point of featuring them in an “Extra Value Menu”? It’s a marketing strategy, of course. By categorizing these items as packing in “extra value,” McDonald’s can call extra attention to them and their “value.” Customers will be more likely to take a second look at these items and buy them once they’re repackaged under the “Extra Value Menu” heading, even though the items have been available for quite some time, at the same exact price.

Take a look at the items being rounded up in the “Extra Value Menu” section. The word “snack” pops up again and again. It’s actually a buzzword in the fast food world: According to one study, the number of times that “snack” appeared in fast food menu items tripled between 2007 and 2010.

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Why might that be? What’s so appealing about a “snack” in the modern-day recession era? Well, a “snack” sounds like it’s a lot easier to digest and afford than a full-fledged meal. It’s easier on your wallet and your stomach, or at least it seems that way. The name gives the impression that it might be healthier and have less calories than a standard sandwich or entree. A snack could also be something you eat in addition to your regular meal, or in between your regular meals—much like the “extras” and “sides” that constitute the offerings on McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.