McDonald's Could Reportedly Hit the Brakes on New Menu Item

The plant-based McPlant burger will eventually be available in McDonald's restaurants nationwide, but not as soon as the company planned. Last month, BTIG analyst Peter Saleh reported that testing in Dallas and San Francisco has not gone as well as McDonald's hoped. McDonald's planned to launch the McPlant nationwide in the second half of 2022, but Saleh suggested that might not happen, Restaurant Business reported on June 16.

Sales of the McPlant burger were "disappointing" in the first two test markets, Saleh wrote. "The modest-to-underwhelming performance of McPlant in the two test markets ... suggests broad appeal or a plant-based burger at McDonald's isn't there yet," the analyst continued. However, operators think McDonald's is committed to bringing a plant-based burger to U.S. markets, so this could just cause a delay in the inevitable. McDonald's hasn't commented.

McDonald's developed the McPlant with Beyond Meat and announced its plans to bring the sandwich to restaurants internationally in 2020. There have already been tests in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. The McPlant is widely available in the U.K. and Ireland already. However, the snag in sales at two major McDonald's U.S. markets could throw a wrench in the fast food industry's attempts to make plant-based offerings mainstream. If a plant-based burger can't be successful at the largest fast food chain in the world, it might not be a big hit for others.

Saleh previously suggested McDonald's continue testing the McPlant after a very limited test in 2021 was successful. The company needed to see how it would do in more rural areas compared to urban areas, where plant-based products have worked because more vegetarians live in urban locations. According to Saleh's report, San Francisco locations sold between 125 and 300 sandwiches per week. However, McDonald's in the Dallas-Fort Worth market sold only about 13 McPlant burgers per week. "Demand was practically non-existent in more rural East Texas at a few sandwiches per day," Saleh wrote.

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The Beyond Meat burger used for McDonald's sandwiches was developed exclusively for the fast food chain, using ingredients like peas, rice, and potatoes. The burger is served on a vegan sesame seed bun with vegan sauce, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. The McPlant also includes a pea protein-based vegan cheese that "tastes just like McDonald's iconic cheese slices." McDonald's reportedly planned to have the burgers made on dedicated grills with separate utensils to make sure the burger is completely vegetarian.