MCD'S MBX TO KNOCK OUT ARCH DELUXE: `WHOPPER STOPPER' READY TO ROLL AS U.S. SALES SHOW SIGNS OF REVIVAL

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The McDonald's Big Extra test burger could be available nationwide by early next year, finally knocking the ill-fated Arch Deluxe off the menu.

The burger, known as a favored product of new McDonald's USA President Alan Feldman, will be rolled into all 2,300 restaurants in the chain's Northeast division by Sept. 15.

A former Pizza Hut executive, Mr. Feldman most recently was president of McDonald's Northeast division, where the new sandwich -- MBX for short -- has been in test since December.

The Northeast is the first of the chain's five U.S. operating divisions to roll out the burger. A franchisee familiar with the plans said the MBX, which the chain hopes will be a "Whopper stopper," will likely be added in the other divisions soon.

A McDonald's spokesman said the MBX is still in test, and declined to discuss rollout plans.

The Northeast division also may soon launch a McBagel breakfast sandwich, aimed at capturing some of the business Dunkin' Donuts has grabbed since adding bagels in 1996.

NO NATIONAL LAUNCHES IN `99

McDonald's was divided into separate operating divisions last summer to bring decisionmaking and management closer to the field. Products are being introduced at the division level, with no national launches on the books for 1999.

McDonald's performance is improving. The company posted an 11% jump in U.S. systemwide sales for the second quarter ended June 30, to $4.9 billion, compared with the same period a year ago. But it warned second-half sales won't be as strong.

The MBX fills a gap in McDonald's menu for a competitively priced burger to compete with Burger King's signature Whopper. MBX will replace the Arch Deluxe burger, a national product targeted to adults, which flopped soon after its launch in 1996.

The new burger will sell for about 10 cents less than the Whopper, usually priced at less than $1.50 and offered at 99 cents in local price battles.

Arch Deluxe was part of a four-item Deluxe line that included a fish sandwich -- reformulated and reintroduced last spring minus the Deluxe label -- and two chicken sandwiches. The chicken has performed well, franchisees said, and remains on the menu. In at least the Northeast and Southeast divisions, however, restaurants in the past few weeks have changed menu boards to remove the "Deluxe Line" label.

TV AND PROMO SUPPORT

The MBX launch will be backed with three weeks of local TV support via DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, followed by a promotional offer of a free sandwich with the purchase of french fries and a drink. A three-week schedule of free-standing inserts comes next.

Plans may change before then to be "more aggressive," said the franchisee, who added he's not in favor of discounting: "It's an outstanding sandwich, it really is delicious. I hate to discount things, particularly when they are new."

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