Can the McRib Save Christmas?

McDonald’s Delays Cult Favorite to Boost December Comps

mcrib sandwich

It seems the economy, weird weather and other 2011 / 2012 oddities have affected every aspect of our lives.  Now even the Mcrib sandwich from McDonalds has been affected.  I am no fan of McDonalds due to their continued spiral of quality of their products.

The hamburger meat no longer tastes like meat, specially my previous favorites the quarter pounder.  I stopped ordering it with cheese many years ago when the cheeses started to resemble and taste like plastic.  Now I dont order them at all because the meat tastes and feels like some sort of reconstituted saw dust mixed with gristle and grease.  But there was always one stand by, something I always looked forward to each year.

Though not completely untouched by the product quality raping, it was still in my opinion the best sandwich they had created.  You either love a Mcrib or you hate it.  I’ll agree its an odd texture, mix of sour and sweet contrasted by the pickles and real onion slices.  Living as a kid for a portion of my life in the south may be a big part of this craving for this sandwich.  I’ve  been known to eat two in a setting.  Interestingly, I am no fan of pork products other than very thinly sliced and super crispy bacon.  But even that I rarely partake.

But the McRib comes but only once a year, usually from late October through early November. This year McRib fans like me will have to wait until late December for McDonald’s pork-sandwich-turned-cult-hit. For that, they can blame the weather. Or, more specifically, last year’s weather.

According to a memo obtained by Ad Age from McDonald’s Operators National Advertising Fund, the chain’s national-franchise council, the McRib marketing window was originally scheduled for Oct. 22 through Nov. 11. But “after looking at ways to strengthen the fourth-quarter 2012 OPNAD calendar,” McDonald’s made the decision to move the sandwich promotion to the latter half of December, the memo said. McRib will get TV, radio, digital, in-store, social media and PR support.

McDonalds Mcrib SandwichMcDonald’s is holding out the star performer in hopes the product will drive sales to meet those of December 2011, which were up a whopping 9.8%. That’s a tough comp, but McDonald’s won’t be alone in trying to beat it. Fourth-quarter 2011 and first quarter 2012 marked one of the mildest winters in years, which had a hugely positive impact on restaurant sales generally.

Underestimate impact
“The winter is seasonally a slower period,” said Howard Penney, restaurant analyst and managing director at Hedgeye Risk Management. “A lot of people underestimated the massive impact the weather had on sales.”

McRib has a relatively small but rabid fan base, in part because of its limited window, and typically provides a proven business boost. Devotees have traveled to find stores offering it. Bloggers have written countless words about it. McRib superfan Alan Klein built the McRib Locator website and multiple Facebook pages have been created to celebrate the sandwich. McDonald’s tapped into that fanaticism in a 2010 ad campaign positioning McRib as a legend.

But McDonald’s needs to attract new fans to match last December’s sales. It wants to bring in a broader consumer base with McRib — actually a restructured pork product molded into the shape of ribs — with messaging focused on “high-quality pork” and its “unique taste,” according to the memo. Omnicom’s DDB, Chicago, handles national general-market advertising.

“There must be great concern at McDonald’s home office over winter-sales challenges, because it’s very unusual to make changes to the marketing plan only a few months before the fourth quarter, the most important quarter on the calendar,” said Richard Adams, a restaurant consultant and former McDonald’s franchisee.