McDonald’s Updates its Value Menu: Higher Prices, Same Great Taste

In 2002 McDonald’s revolutionized the fast food industry when it launched the Dollar Menu on a national scale. The Dollar Menu – available for both the breakfast and lunch/dinner crowds – allowed McDonald’s customers to build a meal out of these dollar selections, or add something extra to their regular order. Over the past decade, millions of customers have consumed countless dollar favorites, including the McDouble, the McChicken, the Sausage Biscuit, and the Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait. Other fast food restaurants even stole the idea. Like all good things, though, the classic Dollar Menu as we’ve known it is coming to an end. On November 4th, McDonald’s is introducing the new “Dollar Menu and More” nationwide. So you’ve got less than a week to stuff your face with low-priced favorites!

This revamped menu still focuses on value, but it allows individual franchisees to have more control of the price points throughout their menu. Your Dollar Menu favorites are not going away completely, but McDonald’s has worked on upgrading many of those sandwiches to help justify the rise in prices. We will see variations in menu pricing depending on which restaurant we visit, but the initial menu will offer items between one and five dollars. You will still be able to get your $1 McChicken (for now) and the menu will max out at the 20 piece Chicken McNuggets for $5.

The Dollar Menu and More has been available in five regions for the last couple of months, and I have been fortunate enough to take advantage of this sneak peak. For those of you that are waiting until November 4th to see what is in store for the future I will be highlighting some potential new favorites (all prices may vary).

Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger ($1.00)

The Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger has been available for a few months, but I am still classifying it as a McDonald’s rookie. It consists of a single burger patty, a slice of cheddar cheese, and a healthy serving of lightly caramelized onions. With only one thin patty this burger isn’t going to fill many people up, but because it is being offered for $1 it makes a decent snack or a great addition to an existing meal. McDonald’s grilled onions are the star of this burger. They are caramelized to take the bite out of the onions, and they really sweeten up the burger. This item is a simplified version of the CBO (Cheddar Bacon Onion) items that McDonald’s also released recently. The onions make this burger different from everything else on the new menu and I am a huge fan.

Buffalo Ranch McChicken ($1.00)

The name of this sandwich really sums up what you are getting. McDonald’s has taken their basic McChicken, a chicken patty with shredded lettuce and mayo, and substituted the mayonnaise for buffalo and ranch sauces. Buffalo sauce and chicken are a match made in heaven, and until McDonald’s starts offering blue cheese to their customers their ranch dipping sauce will have to serve as their buffalo complement. Overall, this sandwich has a good classic flavor profile, and with the price currently set at $1 you can spice up your McChicken without having to grab any extra change off the floor of your car.

BBQ Ranch McDouble ($1.79)

The BBQ Ranch McDouble was the most interesting sandwich I tackled on the new menu. The core of this burger was the basic McDouble, two beef patties with one slice of cheese. However, instead of adding ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions, McDonald’s added their BBQ and ranch sauces and topped the burger with tortilla strips. This burger is very similar to the rodeo-style burger (minus onion rings) that many other fast food spots have tested in recent years. For those of you who enjoy the smokiness of BBQ sauce on your burger the BBQ Ranch McDouble is right up your alley.

McChicken Deluxe ($1.79)

Of all the new items I tasted, the McChicken Deluxe took the #1 spot! The McChicken Deluxe is a premium version of the classic McChicken. McDonald’s upgraded the sandwich with a sesame seed bun, and added slices of cheese and tomato. The addition of cheese and tomato bumps this item up from a cafeteria style chicken patty to a complete chicken sandwich. The original McChicken has always been one of my favorite sandwiches, but unless you are pairing it with a Big Mac or two additional McChickens you aren’t going to fill yourself up. The Deluxe sandwich still won’t fully satisfy the hungriest of eaters, but those of you looking for a small lunch can pair it with fries and drink to get the job done.

Bacon McDouble ($1.79)

There isn’t too much to say about the Bacon McDouble. Once again, McDonald’s marketing team has done a great job of summing items up with their name. The classic McDouble is kept in tact, but the burger is taken to the next level with two strips of Applewood smoked bacon. The Bacon McDouble has made appearances regionally in years past, but it looks like it will now be a nationwide staple. The question that people are going to have to answer is whether they are willing to pay an extra 80 cents to throw a couple strips of bacon on their burger (I’m absolutely willing to do that by the way). For years we were spoiled by the JBC (Junior Bacon Cheeseburger) at Wendy’s for 99 cents. The fact is though, that even Wendy’s can’t sell that burger for under a buck anymore. I recently had to drop $1.59 for a JBC, so the extra 20 cents for the extra patty at McDonald’s doesn’t seem too crazy.

A Bacon Hot ‘N Spicy McChicken is also rumored to be joining the Dollar Menu and More, but I’ve yet to track that item down. (Anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one of those will need to get me up to speed in the comments section.)

Across the fast food spectrum, restaurants are doing away with many of their 99 cent and $1 food items. Increased food costs and overall inflation have made it difficult for franchisees to keep their heads above water when they are selling many of their items for at or near cost. The two ways that restaurants normally combat this problem are to either raise prices or shrink their serving sizes. McDonald’s seems to be taking the first route, but instead of just raising the prices on their existing products they have met their customers half way by giving them several upgraded menu items. So while I have to say Rest in Peace to the Dollar Menu, I am looking forward to the flexibility that the Dollar Menu and More provides the creative minds at McDonald’s.