An amazing story of Harland Sanders, founder of KFC
When you think of McDonald’s food you think of burgers. Maybe other things too but mainly burgers. However, back in the late-80s/early-90s the Golden Arches tried to expand into pizzas.
This was ultimately an unsuccessful expansion for reasons beyond a confusing palate. They failed because they expanded beyond their core competency: making hamburgers.
From an operational stand point hamburgers are different than pizzas. Making pizzas require different equipment and ingredients. One reason for McDonald’s profitability at relatively inexpensive pricing is due to cost efficiencies from economies of scale; every inch of a McDonald’s kitchen is optimized. Fry pans have a designated size that fit with the size of the patty, that are heat up at a certain rate. Pizzas don’t need frying pans. They need ovens. Ovens that are expensive to put into existing restaurants and take up valuable kitchen space. Pizzas also took longer to prepare than the fast food burger. People had to wait longer; an unusual thing for a fast food company to ask of their customers. Lastly, pizzas not fit through the drive through window as easily as a bag of burgers and fries.
They could’ve had success with pizzas if they approached it from a different angle. McDonald’s found success with a production expansion with the Egg McMuffin. Originally, skeptically received, breakfast is a McDonald’s staple now. Burgers are lunch thing, but they successfully introduced breakfast. Pizza is a dinner thing. Therefore, instead of pizzas, McDonald’s should have brought in pizza by the slice (a very well-known concept at pizzerias) or at least personal sized /small pizzas. A slice of pizza for lunch is not a foreign concept. An entire pizza for lunch is.
The difficulty in making and selling different types of food is probably why even large chain restaurants choose to differentiate different palates under different brands as Pizza Hut is doing with WingStreet and Carl’s Jr. with Green Burrito.
Now it will be harder to reintroduce pizzas because McDonald’s is busy rebranding itself to health with marginal success. Pizzas aren’t considered to be healthy. Nonetheless, it is not hitting their market value with a 5 year high at $118/share.
McDonald’s might set up for another go at extension but instead of a product extension (i.e. new product), they might go brand extension (i.e. new company). The popularity of fast casual dining such as Chipotle (before the e-coli debacle) and Blaze Pizza might be an attractive direction to expand McDonald’s.