McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) may be ready to trade in its now retired "you deserve a break today" ad slogan for "you deserve a breakfast today." The world's largest burger chain will start testing the availability of some of its breakfast standards in select San Diego locations later this month.
It's a big move for a company that has historically drawn a hard line between breakfast and the rest of its menu. If anyone remembers the scene from Big Daddy -- where Adam Sandler flips out because he didn't realize that McDonald's stops serving breakfast at 10:30am -- you probably know about the awkward transition that can take place as fryers go from hashbrowns to fries and Sausage McGriddles prep stations make way for the Big Mac.
However, after five -- and now likely six -- straight quarters of negative year-over-year comps in this country, it's not as if McDonald's can afford to play it safe. Mickey D's may be the undisputed champ of breakfast, but its lunch and dinner menu just isn't cutting it with hungry drivers these days.
The sum of all grills
Folks have been clamoring for the freedom to order hotcakes for lunch and an Egg McMuffin for dinner. McDonald's has resisted, even using its Twitter feed earlier this year to point out that it can't do that because its grills just aren't big enough to accommodate the process.
Why don't we serve breakfast all day? Our grills just aren't big enough for breakfast and lunch. pic.twitter.com/Oyser4lnbw— McDonald's (@McDonalds) February 23, 2015
However, the real reason for the hard line between meals probably lies more in the dicey customer experience that having a widening menu would create. There have already been reports in recent years about wait times getting longer, and franchisees have been told that there has been an uptick in complaints about employee attitudes. These setbacks would seem to point to a growing menu increasing the chances that folks have to wait longer for their food or that more orders are coming out wrong.
McDonald's vowed late last year to simplify the menu by early this year. Adding breakfast would do the exact opposite, unless it's accompanied by some serious nixing of the currently available food and beverage choices.
It certainly can be done. Jack in the Box (NASDAQ:JACK) does it, bragging that its breakfast sandwiches and burritos can be had all day long. Sonic (NASDAQ:SONC) also lets drivers chow down on breakfast items whenever they want. Burger King doesn't offer breakfast around the clock, but last year it did start making some of its signature burgers available in the morning.
You don't see Jack in the Box, Sonic, or BK complaining about the size of its grills. That's a pretty lame excuse for McDonald's, especially when traffic trends since late 2013 show that employees at Mickey D's have more time on their hands these days.
This could be just what McDonald's needs. It's already starting to address activist concerns about pay. It will inevitably have to tackle the knocks on quality. This could be -- and should be -- the year that it bounces back. There's a new CEO at the helm with a firm grasp on marketing. Improving employment rates mean that there are more commuters on the road in the morning and late afternoon. Offering breakfast items later in the day would seem to be a call that would lead to incremental sales if the chain can lick the operational logistics.
It's about time for McDonald's to wake up to the realities of breakfast, and shareholders will be the ones seeing things sunny side up again.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.