- McDonald's partnered with Beyond Meat to make the meatless sandwich, which costs slightly more than a Big Mac.
- McDonald's is conducting a 12-week test in 28 Canadian restaurants to collect feedback from customers and employees.
- Still, it's possible that the tests will show that it's not quite time for McDonald's to bring plant-based products to its U.S. restaurants.
McDonald’s has spent the past couple of years sitting on the sidelines while other fast-food chains — among them, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, and Burger King — have jumped into the plant-based burger game. But now, six months after Burger King released the massively successful Impossible Whopper, McDonald’s is set to debut its own plant-based invention: the P.L.T, or Plant Lettuce Tomato burger. McDonald’s plans to begin selling the meatless sandwich for $6.49 CAD in 28 restaurants in Southwestern Ontario on Sept. 30.
The limited release is part of a 12-week test designed to collect feedback from both customers and employees. Burger King conducted similar testing on the Impossible Whopper, which was initially offered only in St. Louis, Missouri, before the restaurant began offering it in other cities. The results showed that the Impossible Whopper was drawing in new customers, ones that typically shop at places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Panera Bread, Burger King North America said in August.
McDonald’s likely hopes its new meatless sandwich will do the same. “We’ve been working on our recipe and now we’re ready to hear feedback from our customers,” said Ann Wahlgren, McDonald’s VP of global menu strategy.
It’s also likely that McDonald’s is eager to see how seamlessly it can integrate the P.L.T. into the workflow at its restaurants. As CNBC noted in June, McDonald’s business model depends on quick service and cheap prices, and adding new items to the menu can slow down service and drive up prices, especially in this case, considering plant-based burgers are typically more expensive than meat. McDonald’s past attempts to add higher-priced menu items haven’t been successful.
McDonald’s might also be concerned about supply. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the two companies battling to dominate the alternative meat industry, have both faced supply shortages in the past year due to surging demand. That poses a potential problem for McDonald’s, which has built its reputation on delivering a consistent experience to its 68 million daily customers.
On the service side, it’s hard to know whether adding the P.L.T. to menus will slow down the workflow at McDonalds, increasing wait times for customers. (Of course, McDonald’s might be able to speed things up with its new automated drive-thru system, which it’s currently testing.) But it’s possible that testing will reveal that, for McDonald’s at least, it’s not quite time to enter the plant-based burger game.
“While we are happy to see MCD consider an entry into the plant-based market, at this point we are not looking for a full blown alternative beef rollout in the U.S. in the near term, primarily for supply chain reasons,” Stephens analyst Will Slabaugh wrote.