iOS app Android app More

McDonald's To Ramp Up Limited Time Offers

By CANDICE CHOI 05/ 3/12 02:43 PM ET AP

NEW YORK -- The newest stars on the McDonald's menu won't be around for long.

The world's biggest hamburger chain is rolling out two menu items that will be available only during the summer months. A seasonal blueberry banana nut oatmeal will be available nationwide by mid-month, and an iced drink called the Cherry Berry Chiller is already available everywhere.

In the years ahead, McDonald's is expected to ramp up its pipeline of limited-time offers – which are available for only a few months at a time – to keep customers flocking to its restaurants.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food company began its focus on limited-time offers on a national scale last year after research showed that variety was a top priority for consumers, said Wendy Cook, vice president of U.S. marketing at McDonald's. Previously, the chain's limited-time offers were mostly at the regional level. Seasonal items give loyal customers something new to try, but also bring in new customers who otherwise might go elsewhere, she said.

"Obviously customers are out there and they're frequenting different places," Cook said. "They're starved for variety."

The new focus on limited-time offers comes as McDonald's looks to extend its dominance in a rapidly changing fast food industry. In 2006, the top three fast food chains in the U.S. in terms of sales were all hamburger chains – McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. Now Subway is No. 2 and Starbucks is in the No. 3 spot, with sales at both companies growing at a much faster clip, according to the food industry researcher Technomic Inc.

For McDonald's, the limited-time offer also lets the company adapt more easily to evolving consumer tastes that are leaning more toward fresh, seasonal ingredients. Since McDonald's operates on such a vast scale – it has 14,000 restaurants nationwide – sourcing the fruits for offerings such as the new the Cherry Berry Chiller can be difficult.

Last year, McDonald's had a total of eight limited-time offers that spanned menu categories (including Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, Asian Chicken Salad, Angus Chipotle BBQ Burger); the company is planning to increase that figure this year. It offered Chicken McBites earlier this year.

The blueberry banana nut oatmeal (290 calories) and Cherry Berry Chiller (200 to 330 calories, depending on size) will be available until August.

McDonald's declined to say what other limited-time offers are in the pipeline in the months ahead. But in a conference call with investors last month, executives noted that the Chicken McBites originated in Australia.

Executive said they plan to continue scouring its regional offerings from around the world for items that might have crossover appeal. That's important because developing a new menu item – even if it's only temporary – can take as long as two years.

The development time is shorter for items such as the blueberry banana nut oatmeal since the company already had a template with its fruit and maple oatmeal, said Anne Kohlenberger, manager of U.S. marketing for the company's breakfast category.

Of course, there are instances when a limited-time offer is so popular that it earns a place in the starting lineup. That's what happened with the Angus Third Pounders, which started as limited time offers in the late summer of 2009.

Also on HuffPost:

The worst fast food creations of 2011

Loading Slideshow...
  • Domino's Stuffed Cheesy Bread

    Plain old stuffed crust? That's so last decade -- at least according to <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/dominos-ipad-app-makes-you-pizza-hero?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Domino's Pizza</strong></a>. Earlier this year, the chain rolled out a line of "Stuffed Cheesy Bread" that's full of "cheese, cheese, and more cheese." In fact, the breads -- which come in Spinach and Feta, Bacon and Jalapeño, and plain Cheese -- contain as much cheese as an entire medium pizza. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/most-bizarre-pizza-toppings-slideshow-0?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Most Bizarre Pizza Toppings</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © Jeff Padrick/Klug Studio

  • KFC Cheesy Bacon Bowl

    A bowl can hardly contain "layers of your favorites" without including bacon. Or so was the logic at KFC, which added bacon as a limited-time topping to <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/kfc-debuts-cheesy-bacon-bowls?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>the chain's line of "Famous Bowls."</strong></a> How did they do it? Well, they took a 680-calorie combo of mashed potatoes, corn, Popcorn Chicken, gravy, and cheese -- then added bacon. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/fast-food-you-cant-find-america-slideshow-0?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Fast Food You Can't Find in America</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © brandeating

  • Starbucks' Trenta Drinks

    Fast-food excess is hardly reserved for food alone. Take Starbucks' Trenta-sized cups, the veritable Big Gulps of coffee consumption, which each contain 31 ounces of caffeinated brew to pour down your gullet. And if caffeine-induced twitching <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-healthy-are-your-kids-healthy-snacks-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>isn't enough of a health risk</strong></a>, consumers should be advised to pace themselves: The cups are actually larger than the typical human stomach. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-eat-well-while-training-marathon-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>How to Eat Well While Marathon Training</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scelera/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/samantha celera</strong></a>

  • Denny's Maple Bacon Sundae

    What's more horrifying than an ice cream sundae that features vanilla soft serve, maple syrup, and bacon bits? An entire menu of creations based on the same bacon-centric principle. Denny's, however, has gone there: <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/20-food-topics-just-wont-die-slideshow#7?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>The chain's "Baconalia!" menu</strong></a> included that cringeworthy sundae, along with a triple-decker BLT, Bacon Meatloaf, and Bacon Flapjacks. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/20-food-topics-just-wont-die-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>20 Food Topics That Just Won't Die</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aloha75/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/Sam Howzit</strong></a>

  • Burger King Stuffed Steakhouse Burger

    If fast food has taught us one thing, it is this: Any food item can be stuffed inside any other. <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/burger-king-rolls-out-premium-hamburger?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Burger King's Stuffed Steakhouse Burger</strong></a>, introduced earlier this year, is a prime example. Not content to simply put cheese atop a burger patty, the chain stuffed bits of Cheddar and jalapeño inside the beef, for "an experience you can see and taste in every bite." <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/burger-king-debut-new-fries?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Burger King to Debut New Fries</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/theimpulsivebuy/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/theimpulsivebuy</strong></a>

  • Pizza Hut's Big Dinner Box

    Pizza Hut's "epic-size" repast offers up two medium pizzas, <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-best-buffalo-wings-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>eight wings</strong></a>, and five breadsticks -- in one convenient box! For the low prize of $20, ravenous diners might be tempted to scarf down the entire thing themselves, but please, make this one a family affair: The items in a single box are estimated to contain around 5,000 calories. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/10-fast-food-favorites-made-healthy-slideshow-0?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>10 Fast Food Favorites Made "Healthy"</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aloha75/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/Sam Howzit</strong></a>

  • Dunkin' Donuts Sausage Pancake Bites

    If you're craving a pancake and sausage breakfast, but just can't find the time, <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/dunkin-debuts-new-holiday-items-45?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Dunkin' Donuts</strong></a> discovered a solution in 2011. An order of the chain's Sausage Pancake Bites offered diners three nuggets of flapjack dough that each enclosed a sausage link. A trio of nuggets also managed to enclose 20 grams of fat, more than most doughnuts. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/mcdonalds-magic-window-menu-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>McDonald's Menu Mash-Up</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/theimpulsivebuy/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/theimpulsivebuy</strong></a>

  • Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos

    Think outside the bun -- and the conventional taco shell. In an apparent bid to include as much junk as possible in a single meal, <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/taco-bell-looks-reinvent-taco?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Taco Bell</strong></a> used California and Ohio residents as guinea pigs to test shells made entirely of Doritos' nacho-flavored chips. The cheesy delicacy might be introduced nationwide next year, when, presumably, the chain will also swaps burrito wraps for potato chips. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/chicos-tacos-love-story?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>Chico's Tacos: A Love Story</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © thatsnerdalicious

  • Friendly's Ultimate Grilled-Cheese BurgerMelt

    Why eat one sandwich, when you can eat three? The KFC Double Down may have replaced a burger bun with fried chicken, but this year, Friendly's managed to outdo even that monstrosity. They swapped out a cheeseburger's bread with two entire grilled cheese sandwiches. This gastronomical innovation, not surprisingly, is also a caloric nightmare: 1,500 per sandwich(es). Even that <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/no-happy-ending-friendlys?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>doesn't seem to be helping the company</strong></a> -- the 76-year-old family-dining brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 5, and is scheduled to be auctioned Dec. 22. <em>Related:</em> <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/no-happy-ending-friendlys?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>No Happy Ending for Friendly's</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit:</em> © <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zombieite/" target="_hplink"><strong>Flickr/zombieite</strong></a>

  • Denny's Mac 'N Cheese Big Daddy Patty Melt

    Leave it to Denny's to create a sandwich that has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/01/dennys-mac-n-cheese-patty-melt_n_945390.html" target="_hplink"><strong>both mac 'n cheese and hamburger meat</strong></a> as ingredients...and sauce and more cheese. This gutbomb was part of Denny's "Let's Get Cheesy" menu, and cheesy it is indeed. We fear what the chain will come up with next, given that this calorie-laden meal has twice the calories as a stick of butter. <em>Related</em>: <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/americas-best-buffalo-wings-slideshow?utm_source=huffington%2Bpost&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=years%2Bmost%2Bover%2Btop%2Bfast%2Bfood%2Bdishes" target="_hplink"><strong>America's Best Buffalo Wings</strong></a> <em>Photo Credit</em>: Denny's

FOLLOW FOOD

Filed by Carey Polis  |