Will Breakfast Sandwiches Save The Day?
On Monday, McDonald’s said it will begin testing daylong breakfast—that means the Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and various other items—at certain restaurants near San Diego. Should the initial tests go well, the menu switch could end up being what McDonald’s desperately needs to get its business back on track. That’s because, by and large, people love McDonald’s breakfast. Matt Yglesias once wrote in Slate of the Sausage McMuffin With Egg: “Asking whether McDonald’s can make a better breakfast sandwich than the Sausage McMuffin With Egg is a bit like asking whether God could make an object so massive that he couldn’t move it.” Business Insider’s Sam Ro has declared a photo of an Egg McMuffin so “perfect” that it inspired him and two colleagues to order McDonald’s on Seamless.
In short, McDonald’s breakfast has somehow escaped the widespread consumer skepticism weighing down sales of most other items on the menu.
Is breakfast really the quintessential Mickey D’s meal of the day? Is an Egg McMuffin better than a Big Mac? In terms of taste, as I don’t eat meat, I am ill qualified to judge; personally, when it comes to junk food, I am in it for the fries. In terms of nutrition, they’re not that different: the former has 450 calories and 27 grams of fat, whereas the latter has 550 calories and 29 grams of fat. Each has more salt than a thousand tears.
Are consumers beginning to turn their backs on this stuff in general because, whether it’s “craveable” or not, it’s unhealthy? Have our priorities shifted?
One common explanation for McDonald’s woes is that low-income Americans are suffering from a sluggish recovery and unable to afford eating out at McDonald’s any more.
But the numbers don’t back up that take. For one thing, McDonald’s has actually become more of a bargain relative to other food options in recent years: McDonald’s prices haven’t risen as quickly as prices at fast-casual eateries like Panera Bread, according to data from Technomic, a food research firm. Nor have they risen as quickly as broader food inflation, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. …
diners are still flocking to other chains despite their typically higher costs. When Chipotle raised menu prices earlier this year, customers didn’t bat an eye — the chain reported a profit jump of 25 percent the following quarter. That suggests McDonald’s problem isn’t so much pricing, but a perception that its food isn’t worth any price — unlike, say, Chipotle, which has positioned itself as offering fast, fresh and quality food for which customers are willing to pay more.
If that’s the case, will breakfast-sandwiches-all-day be enough to lure the middle class back through the golden arches? Is a McMuffin a better value than a Big Mac? It might be, according to the data crunchers at 538.com, but things that are “objectively” true don’t always feel resonant to our lived experience.
While we ponder that, we deserve a treat. Ruth Bader Ginger ice cream for everyone!