McD's Hash Brown Bites 2 - Detail - ©

A Hashbrown, By Any Other Name…

…Would still taste like a Hash-brown. But McDonald’s is apparently taking to heart the old maxim that we eat first with our eyes and – desperate to preserve it’s share of the Burger market – is careening down a dizzy slope trying every option to re-purpose its core menu items…

McD's Hash Brown Bites 2 - © McDonalds.auMcDonald’s Summer Sides Box – available for a limited time only in Australia, features
‘Hash Brown Bites’ plus Chicken Nuggets and ‘Chicken Bites’. We’ve never heard of
Chicken Bites her in North American (I don’t think) and I fail to see how they differ,
materially, from Nuggets. But that’s the insanity of trench warfare for you…

First, we heard of McDonald’s marginally-creative Holiday ‘Season’s Cravings’ special, featuring a Beef Burger (of course) topped with a Rosti. That’s a round, pan-fried Scandanavian Potato Cake most often eaten for breakfast. It’s traditionally made with Onions and often contains other umami yummies. But the McDonald’s version is deep-fried and, though round, is otherwise indistinguishable from the ancient and venerable McD’s Hash Brown. And that’s not a Rosti. Okay. We’re in the post-truth era and I guess they figure, if they call it a Rosti, it’s a Rosti. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the truth. And anybody who accepts the McRosti as a real Rosti is just kidding themself. How Sad.

All that is not to say that the Season’s Cravings Combo, which also includes a load of Bacon, Waffle-cut Fries and a nice Sundae, is not a good bite. Anyway…

Hash-brown encore, encore…

But now, McDonald’s is trying another repurposing scam with its Hash-browns. The Burger Giant is reportedly test-marketing ‘Hash Brown Bites’ – otherwise known as Tater Tots – in Australia. This seems like a frenzied response to the announcement by major competitor Burger King that it was bringing back its Cheesy Tater Tots, which have been on hiatus since 2013.

But wait… Didn’t McDonald’s announce, just before that, that it was testing Deep Fried Cheese Curds in Wisconsin?

The unifying principle…

At the base of all this action-reaction marketing is the desperate need McDonald’s has to retain its leading share in the Burger Joint market in the face of fierce competition from the likes of Burger King, Wendy’s and A&W. A&W is taking another tack, capitalizing on it’s no-antibiotics, no-steroids meats and riding a high at breakfast with its sector-leading wake-up menu. Wendy’s is still differentiating itself from the others by promoting its ‘fresh-never-frozen’ meats and it’s healthier alternatives, under the ‘Quality is our Recipe’ banner. But BK is going head-to-head With McD’s and we’re starting to see what amounts to a trench warfare situation, where both sides are firing their latest menu-item weapons at the other and the result is egregious recycling and re-purposing of old, familiar menu items – which gets neither side anywhere, in the end.

Let’s have something truly new – and exciting!

There’s nothing really new about Hash Brown Bites or Cheesy Tater Tots. The McD’s Season’s Cravings burger is just a new combination of the same old ingredients. The McD’s Sriracha Burger is just the same old components slathered in a hastily-composed Hot Pepper Sauce. I think McDonald’s and Burger King should rally start ‘Thinking Outside of the Bun’, as it were, and take some lessons from Wendy’s. Or take a lesson from themselves – at least, from their own histories. When the Big Mac was invented it was truly something different. When the Egg McMuffin premiered, it was a truly new and refreshing concept that caused a revolution in the take-out breakfast sector.

Stop the volley-for-volley trench warfare!

Get off your creative buts and come up with something truly new and exciting. The first Burger
Giant to do that will undoubtedly win the lion’s share of the market and maybe even leave the competition in its wake. But that’s going to take real creativity and an iron corporate resolve to make it happen.

And on top of all that, Burger Giants, stop treating your customer like morons. We know a Hash-brown when we see it. Most of us can even smell it before we see it. And there’s no way you can make that new.

~ Maggie J.