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Why McDonald's Mighty Wings Failed To Take Flight

Chain to Promote 10 Million Pounds of Surplus Product Deemed Too Spicy and Too Pricey,

By Published on . 3

McDonald's Mighty Wings didn't meet sales expectations, but how far short did they fall?

About 10 million pounds. For the September launch of the product, the chain bought 50 million pounds of chicken wings for the limited-time item, according to the Wall Street Journal. But 20% of that inventory remains, largely because the item didn't sell well.

Don Thompson
Don Thompson Credit: McDonald's

Mighty Wings failed to fly mainly because they were too spicy and too pricey. The wings were sold in packs of three, five or 10 wings starting at $2.99, indicating a discount may be on the horizon to clear out all of that surplus inventory.

CEO Don Thompson in October during the third-quarter earnings call said that "You will see wings again in the U.S." A spokeswoman for McDonald's confirmed that was still the case, though she did not detail when they would return.

Mr. Thompson, during the chain's third-quarter earnings call in October, admitted the Mighty Wings didn't meet the chain's sales expectations. "One dollar per wing was still not considered to be the most competitive in the current environment. The other thing we saw, and it's a very slight modification, the flavor profile is slightly spicy for some consumers."

The wings may sell better at a discounted price, but sales at a discounted price are often at the expense of franchisee profits. According to the Journal, franchisees have been told they need to participate in another upcoming promotion or else pay for the excess chicken inventory.

"The question is, what's more precious, advertising dollars needed to grow sales or the wings McDonald's has on inventory?" said Richard Adams, a former McDonald's franchisee and current franchise consultant. "McDonald's corporate develops the product and tells the suppliers how much to produce -- it's all on them. Franchisees appear to be saying, 'If you like your Mighty Wings, you can keep your Mighty Wings.'"

McDonald's promoted Mighty Wings by courting football fans using its status as the official partner of the National Football Laeague. "Given the natural tie between wings and football, the NFL is the perfect partner to help promote our new Mighty Wings," said a McDonald's spokeswoman at the time,

McDonald's late last year signed on as the official restaurant of the NFL, a multi-year partnership that allows the chain to use the 32 team logos and the NFL shield in its marketing.

Franchisees have grown increasingly disgruntled over McDonald's corporate desire to heavily promote the dollar menu this year, which some franchisees said customers will generally choose over more premium-prices products.

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