After three years of offering McRib nationally, McDonald's is switching back to offering the sandwich on a regional basis.
The chain will leave the rollout of the McRib up to its franchise groups, according to the Associated Press, which broke the news. Many McDonald's locations have been offering the product for the past couple weeks.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said: "This year we continue to focus on our customers for the remainder of 2013 with several new menu items – Mighty Wings, Southwest Premium McWrap, White Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha. We also had introduced Pumpkin Spice Latte earlier in the fall. Because of these new options, we left it up to our franchisees as to whether or not they want to offer the McRib, based on their local preferences." She added that customers can go to the fan-generated mcriblocator.com website to find which markets where the sandwich may be available.
McDonald's originally launched the McRib as a national promotion in early November in 2010. Last year, the chain had originally planned on rolling it out in late October, but delayed the McRib's national release until mid-December. Instead, it rolled out its Cheddar Bacon Onion burger and chicken sandwich during the October time slot.
The McRib delay was done in the hopes the product would drive sales to meet those of December 2011, which were up a whopping 9.8% in the U.S. (Fourth-quarter 2011 and first quarter 2012 marked one of the mildest winters in years, which had a hugely positive impact on restaurant sales in general.) It also urged franchisees to stay open on Thanksgiving and Christmas to eke out more sales during the quarter and reworked the 2013 marketing calendar to fit in more dollar-menu and value marketing.
McDonald's fourth-quarter same-store sales in the U.S. in 2012 were relatively flat at 0.3%. McDonald's third-quarter 2013 same-store sales were up 0.7% in the U.S. The company has been struggling to stave off decelerating sales since early 2012. In October last year, it reported its first global-sales loss in nine years.
Last week, at an investor meeting, the company blamed too many menu introductions being rolled out too quickly for nagging customer-service issues. McDonald's executives said that between March and July it rolled out four products -- McWraps, blueberry-pomegranate smoothies, Egg White Delight McMuffins and its new line of Quarter Pounders -- at a pace that was too speedy and complex, which slowed down operations.
Facing increasing pressure to boost sales, the chain is asking agencies to step up the marketing game, but the company denies any agency changes are being considered.
One of the chain's biggest priorities next year will be coffee. It announced that it's testing packaged coffee in select grocery stores and markets, a move that executives hope will bring more customers into the restaurants. The chain is also making improvements in operations and customer experience a priority for 2014.