Chains Bank on Proven Menu Winners

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Given an economic environment that McDonald’s Corp. CEO Don Thompson recently called “uncertain and fragile,” chains are trying to minimize the uncertainty by bring back limited-time-offer burgers that customers already have shown they will buy. Chains are going back five years or even more to find once-popular foods worthy of return engagements rather than constantly gamble solely on totally new menu items.

Then there’s the Whiplash Whopper (spicy mayo, crispy red bell pepper, and Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeňos), returning this week to Burger King stores in Canada. You may remember it from a 2010 promotion tied to the film “Iron Man II.” The movie’s gone; the burger’s back.

McDonald’s is, of course, the king of nostalgia marketing. It takes the McRib off the menu, allows the craving and clamoring to grow and then brings it back. McRib’s latest return here is scheduled for early next month.

McDonald’s is playing the “everything old is new again” game all over the world as it fights to regain lost customer traffic and sales momentum. In New Zealand, for example, McDonald’s recently trumpeted the return of the McFeast, a quarter-pound burger with tomato, lettuce, cheese, zesty sauce and mayonnaise that has been on and off the menu for better than 20 years.

In Switzerland this week, McDonald’s is bringing back the McZüri veal burger, a surprise hit there a year ago. Items don’t have to be that innovative to merit revival: the “Le Double Cheese” is back on McDonald’s menu in France for a limited time.

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