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Stuck with wings, McDonald’s to try again

McDonald's Mighty Wings
AP
McDonald's Mighty Wings

McDonald's is saddled with a lot of unsold chicken from its Mighty Wings promotion.

The world's biggest hamburger chain bought nearly 50 million pounds of wings for the limited-time promotion, but about 20 percent of the inventory is still around, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Oakbrook, Ill.-based company introduced Mighty Wings in the fall to compete with rivals Wendy's and Burger King Worldwide, which have expanded their menu options with attention-grabbing items.

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When McDonald's reported third-quarter earnings in October, CEO Don Thompson said, "Mighty Wings resonated with consumers but performed at the lower end of our expectations. ... One dollar per wing was still not considered to be the most competitive in the current environment."

Though the company has not addressed the price issue further, it said in an email statement to CNBC on Thursday that it remains committed to the item.

"We're bringing back Mighty Wings—stay tuned," McDonald's spokesperson Lisa McComb said.

In an anonymous survey conducted by Janney Capital Markets, analyst Mark Kalinowski in October, some McDonald's franchise owners said the wings were selling poorly because they were priced well above competitors' offerings.

"Mighty Wings are proving once again that we can't sell premium items in large numbers because we still have the Dollar Menu," one franchisee said.

Another owner said Mighty Wings make up less than 2 percent of its stores sales.

Having "too many products on the menu has been causing operational nightmares for years. Mighty Wings are an extremely high-food-cost item."

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According to the WSJ report, franchisees have been told they must participate in another promotion or pay for the excess chicken supplies.

"We are not only having to suffer higher food costs of wings but owner/operators will have to eventually cover the writedown of excess inventory at the distribution centers," a survey participant said.

This story has been updated to reflect McDonald's statement.

—By CNBC's Karma Allen with additional reporting by Katie Little

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