McDonald's Files Trademark for 'McBrunch'

Move Could Mean Chain Is Looking To Extend Breakfast Hours

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McDonald's Egg-White Delight
McDonald's Egg-White Delight

McDonald's might want to put Egg McMuffins into the national brunch discussion. The burger giant has applied to trademark "McBrunch," signaling yet another possible approach to boost its late-morning business on the weekends.

Breakfast is the quickest-growing time of day for fast-food sales, and McDonald's has been fighting to keep its lead against an increasingly crowded field of morning competitors. More robust food offerings from Starbucks now vie with a new morning menu at Taco Bell and better coffee from Chick-fil-A on the breakfast battlefield.

While brunch could attract more morning traffic to McDonald's, a fast-food restaurant is not an obvious fit for a brunch gathering -- often thought of as a leisurely, possibly hungover meal, perhaps accompanied by Bloody Marys unlikely to appear on a McDonald's menu.

Fast-food brunch has been tried before. Burger King briefly tested a brunch menu that included nonalcoholic mimosas -- orange juice mixed with Sprite -- and a ciabatta breakfast sandwich. It was offered in only a few markets in Massachusetts and Florida during regular breakfast hours, according to a report in BurgerBusiness, and the brunch experiment never went national.

Operational complications currently hold back McDonald's from offering breakfast all day, executives have said, but perhaps a flirtation with McBrunch could signal an extension of breakfast hours. The chain is already serving some breakfast items on a "McDonald's After Midnight" menu between midnight and 4 a.m. at certain locations.

The company won't say what it's up to. "We routinely file intent to use trademark applications as a regular course of business," said McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb in an e-mail. "We can't share details at this time as to how the trademarks may or may not be used." Just seeking to trademark a term might mean nothing in the end: Applebee's, for instance, recently applied to trademark "No Tech Tuesday" but denies any plans to ban restaurant customers from using their devices on Tuesdays. A brunch-ified McMuffin might likewise just be an idea for McDonald's to chew over.

Regardless, the chain is clearly looking at new potential sources of sales as it battles sales declines. Last month, Kraft and McDonald's announced they'd roll out McDonald's McCafe coffee nationally in grocery stores.

Executive changes are underway as well, especially in the U.S. Just last week, Ad Age reported that Marlena Peleo-Lazar, a key exec in the "I'm lovin' it" positioning, left. That move comes after Deborah Wahl joined as U.S. CMO earlier in the year. And in August, the chain named Mike Andres as its new U.S. president, replacing Jeff Stratton, who was in the role less than two years. h

In the second quarter of this year, its U.S. sales in stores that have been open for at least a year slipped 1.5% from the period a year earlier, following a 1.7% decline in the first quarter. The chain's August sales, which were released Tuesday, also didn't look promising. Global same-store sales dropped 3.7% in August, the sharpest decline since a drop of 4.7% in February 2003. U.S. sales were down 2.8%, Europe was down 0.7%, and in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, sales at existing locations plummeted a whopping 14.5% last month.

~ Bloomberg News and Maureen Morrison ~

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