McDonald's bounces back to pre-pandemic sales by leaning into fresh trends

Friday, April 30, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
_The Fried Chicken Sandwich Wars intensify [izusek/E+ via GettyImages]_

The Fried Chicken Sandwich Wars intensify [izusek/E+ via GettyImages]

McLovin' it... a Superbad reference for a pretty good quarter. McDonald's earnings are fresh out of the fryer: last quarter, US same-store sales soared 14% from 2020, as reopenings and vaccines encouraged eating out. Even better: total global sales surpassed pre-pandemic levels. The Big Mac has officially made a comeback — but chicken was the real star.

Nothing paltry about poultry... As interest in beef alternatives like plant-based meat grows, chicken continues to be the most popular meat in the US. Fast-food giants are capitalizing by putting a fresh spin on it. Enter: the Fried Chicken Sandwich Wars. Popeyes started the craze in 2019 with its viral sandwich. Now KFC, Wendy’s, and Burger King have joined the fray — and Taco Bell did the most with a fried chicken sandwich taco.

  • McDonald's was late to the FCS wars, launching three fried chicken sandwiches in February this year. Since it controls 30% of the fast-food market, all eyes were on McD's.
  • Result: McD's crushed its sales projections for the Crispy Chicken Sandwich line, while limited-time Spicy McNuggets drove excitement.
  • Fun stat: "Chicken" was mentioned 23 times in its earnings call ("burger" only twice).

Double down on the trend product... Trend products drive fresh sales for old companies — from Popeyes' Chicken Sandwich, to Starbucks' Brown Sugar Oat Milk Espresso. For McD's, the chicken sandwich isn't a sandwich... it's "the beginning of our multiyear chicken journey." McD's CEO said it will use everything in its "arsenal" to drive chicken sales in this fast-food war. And it's also doubling down on another trend product: Famous Orders. Its Travis Scott meal majorly drove digital sales, and a BTS partnership is up next.