McDonald’s may be a behemoth when it comes to creating iconic products that appeal to the masses, but it isn’t a brand that rushes into innovation. Case in point: it began testing the waters with a new burger last year, but is now pulling it off the market.
The burger slinger confirmed this week that its US test of the McPlant burger has come to an end as planned, and there are no indications that additional testing or a nationwide rollout are on the horizon. While early tests at a handful of locations in 2021 seemed to have been successful enough to warrant an expanded test at 600 restaurants this year, it seems that the plant-based burger wasn’t selling well enough to continue its tenure on the menu.
According to analysts, low sales of the McPlant across the test markets in California and Texas are the main reason why McDonald’s is nixing the burger for the time being.
“We believe that McDonald’s … has broadly discontinued its US test of the McPlant burger,” Ken Goldman with JP Morgan wrote in a note. “We recently spoke with MCD employees at 25 locations that previously carried the product; each said the item is no longer on the menu. Not surprisingly, the reason sometimes being cited is that the product did not sell well.”
The chain did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the burger’s status.
For those in the know, the news is unsurprising. While the McPlant has taken off in some European markets, speculations of a more modest reception in the United States have swirled since the beginning of the year. In March, BTIG analysts Peter Saleh and Ben Parente noted the burger wasn’t selling as well as franchisees had hoped.
According to their report, locations in urban areas like Dallas and San Francisco were selling about 20 McPlants a day, whereas rural and suburban areas were seeing an abysmal demand of 3 to 5 burgers a day. And even 20 burgers a day was far less than the predicted 40 to 60 target the chain was aiming for.
Additionally, the McPlant was made to order, and Saleh suggested it may have been slowing down operations—a huge drawback for a fast-food giant like McDonald’s, where speed and efficiency are key.
The chain’s cautious approach to the plant-based fast-food trend was highlighted by McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski in an interview with The New York Times last year, where he called the chain’s menu “Darwinian” (aka whatever sells massive volumes gets to stay on the menu).
“The way I approach the job today is: whatever the customer wants to buy,” he said. “If they want to buy plant-based and they want to buy enough of it, I could make my whole menu plant-based. If they want to be able to buy a burger, we’ll sell a burger.”
Clearly, Americans have returned their verdict on the McPlant.
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT’s coverage of America’s favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more