These throw-back menu items are further evidence of heightened competition between the two burger giants, who are already locked in a chicken war fought with weapons made from rock-bottom priced nuggets.
Menu second-acts are considered less risky than engineering a completely new product at a time when competition is fierce, said Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at market research firm Technomic. Tristano said advertising them as limited-time offerings also sparks some immediacy to visit restaurants—if customers want a shot at ordering an old favorite.
"These would be considered tried and true and products that achieved some level of success," Tristano added.
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Bringing back older items is also easier operationally than launching something totally new.
"If you're bringing back an old product, generally you'll have a lot of creative (for advertising) done, and the supply chain already set up," said John Gordon, principal at Pacific Management Consulting Group. "Often it's a matter of updating it and ensuring they can supply the new tonnage again, and the consumer research has already been done."
These limited-time offers help chains bring "new" product news to the table without adding permanent complexity.
This is especially important for McDonald's, which pared down its menu earlier this year amid criticism it had grown too bloated, causing slowness at the drive-thru.
Although each chain's returning items were not blockbusters—or they would never have left menu boards in the first place—they were not "an utter catastrophe" originally, Gordon pointed out.
"You don't see McDonald's bringing back Mighty Wings," he added, referring to the fast food chain's notable flop.