In the wake of overall lackluster sales growth this year, McDonald's made what one analyst called "a bold move" affecting one of its most popular items.
For the first time since 2009, the fast-food giant said Wednesday that it would not offer the cult favorite McRib sandwich nationally but instead would let franchisees choose whether or not to put it on their menu.
"It's a bold move not to have the McRib nationally," said Peter Saleh, a director and senior restaurant analyst at Telsey Advisory Group.
(Read more: No national launch for McRib amid menu change-up)
Typically, McDonald's features the sandwich—slathered with barbeque sauce and served with pickles and onions—for several weeks toward the end of the year. This time, though, the company has introduced a bevy of items, including Mighty Wings, Pumpkin Spice Latte and a revised Dollar Menu.
"Because of these new options, we left it up to our franchisees as to whether or not they want to offer the McRib, based on their local preferences," said Tyler Litchenberger, a McDonald's spokesman.
Sam Oches, an editor at QSR Magazine, a trade journal for the fast-food industry, expects most franchisees to sell the McRib because it's typically such a hit.
"It's always been this great, late-year jolt for the company," he added.
"The McRib is interesting in that it's wildly successful, but McDonald's chooses not to add it to the permanent menu," Oches said. "In doing so, it elevates it to a pedestal that customers put it on."