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McDonald's All-Day Breakfast Is Not Quite What It Seems

By Daniel B. Kline - Sep 7, 2015 at 6:00PM

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The company is being a little misleading in its latest attempt to ignite sales.

As if Mayor McCheese himself had issued an executive order, it has been decreed that McDonald's (MCD -0.35%) will now serve all-day breakfast.

No longer will the Egg McMuffin only be delivered by Early Bird, the pink overall-wearing bird character introduced in 1980 to promote the company's breakfast items. Instead, the company will now offer "All Day Breakfast," beginning Oct. 6, the company announced in a press release:

It's time for breakfast on your terms. 10:30 a.m. will no longer be the end of breakfast. Lunch, snack, dinner, late night -- it's time for Hotcakes at whenever o'clock. The new limited menu will allow customers to enjoy a breakfast sandwich paired with an order of World Famous Fries after 10:30 a.m.

The move is happening because of public demand. The fast-food chain acknowledged in the press release that it's the No. 1 request it hears from customers. "In fact, more than 120,000 people tweeted McDonald's asking for breakfast throughout the day in the past year alone," it claimed.

Adding all-day breakfast seems like a great idea, and you only have to go to one of the chain's location at 10:30 a.m. to see the confusion and anger as McGriddles make way for Big Macs to verify the demand. The only problem is that McDonald's won't actually be offering its breakfast menu all day long.

This video from McDonald's Australia explains why the company stopped serving breakfast at 10:30 a.m. Source: McDonald's YouTube feed

What's the catch?
The key to what McDonald's is actually doing comes in the word "limited" in the press release. Even though upstart rivals including Sonic serve a full breakfast menu and longtime competition White Castle is managing to retrofit its kitchens to serve its full menu all day long, McDonald's will be making only some of its morning items available.

Because of limitations in the chain's equipment, all-day breakfast will offer one popular set of sandwiches or another. "Depending on the local market, All Day Breakfast will have a limited menu that focuses on either McMuffin or Biscuit items," the release states. "This decision is made at the local level based on customer preference."

In reality, All Day Breakfast is a very limited subset of the company's full breakfast menu. There's no McGriddle, nor is there anything involving bacon (which seems odd, because bacon appears on the lunch/dinner menu). The Big Breakfast is also missing a number of other items.

McDonald's is calling this "All Day Breakfast," and it is, but it's a very limited subset of the full breakfast menu and it's likely to still leave some customers dissatisfied as they ask why they can't have a McGriddle just because it's 10:31 a.m.

McDonald's "All Day Breakfast" will have some, but not all, of the company's morning items. Source: McDonald's.

This is good, but it's just a start
To make room for its new, limited all-day breakfast menu McDonald's, also plans to trim down its lunch and dinner offerings, though how it will do that may vary regionally, Nation's Restaurant News reported. That's not a bad thing, as franchisees had been complaining about the chain's increasingly complex food selection.

"We discussed helping with simplification, to make sure that (all-day breakfast) is simple and easy to execute," LeAnn Richards, a McDonald's franchisee who led the all-day breakfast task force, told NRN. "It fits together."

McDonald's deserves credit for listening to its customers, but it also seems to be creating another sort of headaches by promoting the offering as "All Day Breakfast" but then offering a limited menu. This seems like exactly the kind of misleading and maybe misguided move that has precipitated the company's recent decline.

The fast-food giant has solved half a problem, and that will please some of its customers. That's good, but perhaps not good enough, given the company's rivals and the existence of chains that actually serve their entire breakfast menu all day.

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