I was looking through a local paper and I came across a reprint of this article: The Secrets of the Value Menu: How Fast-Food Chains Use the Value Menu to Get You to Spend More. I’ve had a love affair with the Value Menu of fast food restaurants for some time. More than six years ago, I wrote about 75 words on a McDonalds commercial I saw (that was the great depth of writing you got from Lazy Man back in 2006). Two and a half years later, I wrote a much more substantial piece analyzing several restaurant value menus: Save Money with Fast Food Value Menus where I cover not only the best value option in the value menu, but also the healthiest (in my opinion, obviously) option.
The Secrets of the Value Menu
The article that I read in the local paper covered all the basics about how companies are trying to upsell you on their other products. What was interesting to me is that it mentioned how people have started to order tap water instead of soft drinks (smart!), but that they’ve started falling for $3 coffee drinks (ugh!). Not only that, but the article nicely covers the incredible shrinking value menu. It specifically mentions the switch from a double cheeseburger with two slices of cheese to a McDouble with one, which I covered previously. When I wrote about it in early 2009 the double cheeseburger was $1.29 vs. the $1.00 McDouble. This article mentions that the double cheeseburger is now up to $2.00. In 2009, I lamented about the price of a 29 cent slice of cheese. Imagine how I feel now when you could get two extra patties and two extra buns by ordering two McDoubles for the same price as a double cheeseburger. (Are people still ordering double cheeseburgers?)
This brings me to something that I’ve often wondered… when do value menus based around dollar pricing outright die? At some point commodity prices are going to eat further and further into McDoubles until they have to be smaller and smaller for McDonalds to still make money. I suppose they could raise the price of the value menu, but then the “Dollar Menu” would no longer be aptly named. It seems like the unlimited data plans of cell phone companies that simply are not built to stand the test of time.
I suppose McDonalds could use the Dollar Menu as a loss leader to get people to buy higher margin drinks and fries. It’s not too much different than what they do today, except that they’d lose money on
cheapskates frugally awesome people like me who have a drink in the car and skip the fries.
If fast food places start losing money on value menus because people aren’t buying the upsale items, they will surely die. So on second thought, go have that McLatte Grande.
The Obligatory Message about Health and Fast Food Value Menus
We all recognize that the value menu items at fast food places is a “sometimes food”, right? I’m not advocating some kind of burger diet devoid of healthy fruits and vegetables. I don’t believe in that.
However, as a practical measure, there are times when you are going to be on the road and hungry. Perhaps you didn’t plan ahead to put a nutrition bar in your car’s glove compartment. (Wait, you are all smart enough to do that, right?) Perhaps you just want something hot for lunch. Perhaps you have limited time and you are willing to pay for convenience. Perhaps you just want to put around 400 calories in your system and McDonalds McDouble is good fit under the right circumstances.
Side note: I have to include this section because the ViSalus and MonaVie distributors like to read posts like this this and spread propaganda that I’m against healthy foods as some kind of justification for ignoring my posts about their pyramid schemes.