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BTIG analysts have released a report detailing disappointing McPlant sales figures in California and Texas. Peter Saleh and Ben Parente say that up to 20 burgers are being sold per day in high-performance areas. This represents a drastic decline from predictions of 40-60 sandwiches.
A drop in demand for the McPlant has led to operational changes. Said adaptations are proving disruptive, particularly at drive-thrus and lengthening average service times. Saleh and Parente suggest a pricing and marketing overhaul will be necessary to revive the sandwich’s flagging popularity.
Has the McPlant bubble burst?
Initial U.S. testing of the McPlant burger in 2021 yielded positive sales figures. Offered in eight selected stores, some were recording up to 500 sandwich sales a week, representing around 70 per day. Based on the positive uptick, the number of test restaurants was expanded to approximately 600 locations last month. Since broadening the availability of the McPlant, sales have been disappointing, with some locations reporting single-digit daily sales.
“Our checks suggest that restaurants in the Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco Bay Area are selling about 20 McPlant sandwiches per day, while restaurants in more rural areas of East Texas are selling only 3-5 sandwiches per day,” Saleh and Parente commented in their report.
What will McDonald’s do?
Having signed a three-year distribution deal with Beyond Meat, supplier of the McPlant burger patty, McDonald’s has little option but to make the sandwich perform better. Saleh and Parente have predicted a radical overhaul of the marketing campaign linked to the dish, alongside a revision of the pricing structure. Together, they see this as a strategy for enticing consumers to at least try the meat-free alternative, without being concerned about a lack of value.
“For McPlant to be more ubiquitous, the price point needs to be more competitive with traditional burgers, and the health and climate benefits need to have greater emphasis,” the two write.
For now, revelations of dwindling sales should cool the ardour of plant-based eaters hungry for nationwide McPlant launches. The deal with Beyond means that poor sales in one or two test markets are not expected to impact the company’s overall pledge to cater to plant-based eaters. In addition, strong international sales are a motivation to get the marketing side of the U.S. McPlant rollout right.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski commented that it would take at least “several quarters” to assess if the McPlant has nationwide potential in the U.S. The prediction was made last year in an earnings call for the fast-food giant.
What did the U.K do right?
The U.K. and Ireland have embraced the McPlant. Test launches at the end of 2021 quickly led to full nationwide rollouts in January. The difference, according to Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown, was a prolific marketing campaign.
“The U.K. and Ireland launch is being supported by a robust joint marketing program that spans across TV, radio, out-of-home, social, PR, influencer, mobile and digital elements,” Brown said in its Q4 2021 earnings call.
Is the U.S. still open to vegan fast food?
A number of vegan quick service options have burst onto the U.S. gastronomic scene in recent months. Only time and sales figures will tell if they were successful.
Burger King added to its plant-based options in January this year with its Impossible Foods chicken nuggets. Launched in three cities as an initial market test, they follow the Impossible Whopper as a collaboration between the two food giants. The latter was brought to market in 2019 and quickly reduced in price to maintain consumer interest.
Also in January, KFC brought Beyond Chicken to each of its almost 4,000 U.S. locations. The menu addition was a temporary move, and not vegan due to cooking methods. At the time of launch, KFC US president Kevin Hochman revealed that he expected the nuggets to sell out. This has not yet been confirmed.
All photos by McDonald’s.