Your Strategy Needs to Be Flexible: The McDonald’s Case

Remember when this March amid the pandemic shock McDonald’s stopped serving salads and all-day breakfast (see)? So here’s some more recent news: the customers do not seem to care and it is possible that those salads aren’t coming back, at least on the scale they used to be on the menu (see).

In fact, the salads and the breakfast are a nice real-life example of why and how your strategy should definitely be flexible and have some leeway in execution.

Fast-food breakfast seemed a crazy idea in the 1970s. Yet with the introduction of the Egg McMuffin in 1972 and the full breakfast menu a bit later McDonald’s managed to grab up to a quarter of the US breakfast market by 19871. The 2015 all-day breakfast introduction was yet another step to appeal to the customers requiring more menu options on a 24/7 basis.

The salads in McDonald’s had a similar track record: customer demand for a wider variety of healthier food led to the salads roll-out in the mid-1980s. The company responded to the acute rise in health concerns among the public in the early 2000s by pushing on more salads and a full-scale marketing campaign for healthier food in 2003. This move helped to significantly improve the McDonald’s image among the active lifestyle customers and quickly get back to profitability and growing market share in the post-Super Size Me world.

So why back down now on the strategies that were so successful? Why cancel the ever-broadening menu approach that served well just recently? So here’s the tip: strategy is not about an immutable idea to be used forever. Watch your customers closely and react to their needs and demands even if it means breaking the established status quo.

Moreover, do not hesitate to use tactical respites while still pursuing your long-term goals. And I believe that this is the case with McDonald’s move today. It’s just a tactical decision to scale down a bit when your customers need most what you do best. During the 2020 pandemic scare and income reduction customers required uninterrupted service, fast delivery, and cheaper items which the company had the acumen and courage to respond to. Don’t worry: the salads and the all-day breakfast will return but a little later – just when the public will ask for them.