After McDonald’s Corp. announced all-day breakfasts three years ago, it gradually forgot about mornings.
Overall sales have weakened in the U.S., market share has shrunk, and McDonald’s has identified lost breakfast customers as the main culprit. Now the world’s biggest restaurant company plans to fight back with discounts, breakfast catering and a ploy lifted straight from a 1997 “Seinfeld” episode — selling only the tops of muffins.
“We took our eye off the ball on breakfast,” Chief Financial Officer Kevin Ozan said at a May investor conference. “With everything else going on, we just lost a little focus on that breakfast day part.”
For McDonald’s, breakfast has long been a stronghold, according to Linda VanGosen, vice president of menu innovation for the U.S. It accounts for 25 percent of domestic sales, and mornings are the most profitable part of the day.
But rivals are advertising cheap eats and some of them are moving to sell breakfast all day, too, taking the shine off McDonald’s 2015 announcement. After reaching an all-time high in January, McDonald’s shares are down more than 10 percent.
“It had been a while, I think, before we had really focused in on talking to customers about that morning day part,” VanGosen said in an interview.
In the Baltimore area, McDonald’s tried offering coffee cake and 160-calorie blueberry muffin tops. Selling only the upper part of the muffin was an idea hatched by Elaine Benes, the hapless “Seinfeld” character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The problem on the episode, credited to writer Spike Feresten, was what to do with the remainder of the muffins. Elaine tried donating them to a soup kitchen, which rejected them because they were “just stumps” that were missing the best parts — the tops.