Why The McDonald’s Breakfast Menu Is Not Served All Day

McDonalds Breakfast Menu

(This is a guest post written by Joseph Yi. Check out his blog at Create & Innovate!)

For food lovers, the McDonald’s Breakfast Menu is the equivalent of diamond. Everyone wants it, but not everyone can have it. Hard to come by and unique, those lucky enough to wake up for it savor each bite, while those who are not so lucky ask the question “Why not serve it all day?”

Starting with the Egg McMuffin in 1972, McDonald’s pioneered breakfast fast food by providing a quick and easy way for consumers to have the ‘most important meal of the day.’ In the United States, most McDonald locations stop serving the McMuffin and their breakfast menu at 10:30AM, with a few stopping at 11:00AM on weekends.

While many fast food and QSR chains have expanded their breakfast menu hours to run all day, most notably Jack in the Box, McDonald’s remains one of the few chain restaurants to serve breakfast only during morning hours, and for good reason. While there are obvious economic reasons in play, such as the differing cooking temperatures for breakfast items vs. lunch items (ie: hamburger patties vs. eggs) and extra staffing requirements, from a marketing and branding standpoint, McDonald’s is an excellent example of Gamification and how not serving it all day has it’s benefits. 

The Law of Scarcity

The Law of Scarcity states that when a person perceives that something or someone that they want is in limited quantity that the value of the object will be greater than if it were to be abundant and available.

To clearly understand this, we will use shoes as an example, specifically the Nike Air Jordan brand.

Law of Scarcity - Air Jordan

Often the most sought out pairs of shoes when released, the Nike Air Jordan brand was fueled not only by an iconic brand in Michael Jordan, but by a marketing strategy built to drive demand. Rather than produce pairs of shoes based on the demand of the market, Nike often produces a set number of Air Jordans. Regardless of demand for them, Nike brands Air Jordan’s as “get them while you can” products. No matter the outcry and consumer demand, the scarcity and difficulty in acquiring a pair of Air Jordans is what makes it so appealing.

Circle back now to McDonald’s and wee see the same sort of effect. Yes, McDonald’s may sell more by changing the hours during which they offer their breakfast menu, but just how Air Jordan’s have branded themselves as the exclusive shoe for basketball enthusiasts, so has McDonald’s in becoming the go-to fast food destination for breakfast.

How To Create Market Demand For Your Product

You may not have an Egg McMuffin or a fresh pair of Jordans, but there are still plenty of ways to create a demand for your product.

  1. What’s the emotional connection?The best kind of marketing is the kind that creates an emotional reaction. TOMS Shoesfor example has a great story behind their product:

    TOMS Shoes - Emotional MessageWith Every Pair You Purchase, TOMS Will Help a Person in Need.
    One for One.

    In building a very profitable business, TOMS pulls at the emotional strings of consumers by tying purchases with goodwill. Remember: there is always a story to tell with your product. From how people use it to how it is helping do good, sometimes the key is just to dig a little.

  2. Build HypeOne of the most effective strategies in creating market demand is to build hype before it even launches. Just how cars brands will provide ‘sneak peaks’ of new models, consider ‘teasing’ new products and ideas to your community to generate buzz and interest.
  3. Be originalThe concept is simple, yet getting there can be much harder. Going back to our example of McDonald’s and their breakfast menu, one will note the originality in their products. Most fast food chains have the same standard breakfast items like the others, but only McDonald’s has the Egg McMuffin and Big Breakfast.Look at your competitors and see what they are doing. It’s easy to copy what they are doing, but what will separate you from the rest and create a demand for your product is how it stands out amongst the competition.
  4. Limit the opportunityAnother example that we can take away from McDonald’s is the McRib. Comprised of a pork patty, barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles served on a 5½ inch roll, the McRib has become a cult favorite. Served just a time during the calendar year, McDonald’s took this once dying menu item and created a demand for it by introducing creative campaigns such as the “Farewell McRib Tour.”Farewell McRib Tour
    Taking a tip out of the McDonald’s playbook, limiting the opportunity of a new product or feature is a great way to create a reaction by the market to ‘buy while they still can.’

Just like McDonald’s and their breakfast menu, taking simple products and turning them into ‘high-demand’ commodities is all about strategy and planning. Let us know what you think about McDonald’s marketing strategy for their breakfast menu as well as any others that you think are worth mentioning in the comment section below.

22 thoughts on “Why The McDonald’s Breakfast Menu Is Not Served All Day”

  1. Yeah creating a “false” sense of scarcity can boost sales…among stupid people, Yes having a limited time at which you serve a product can drive up sales to an extent, but once people figure out that you are doing it specifically to drive up sales, it’s going to irritate them, which is going to make them not like you as a company. As someone said It mainly just pisses people off when they want something and can’t get it, which will make you lose them as a customer, people are fickle, and love to hold grudges, that one person that doesn’t seem to matter much starts to matter a lot more when they vow not to buy ANY of your products, because they can’t get that one thing they want when they want it. Personally I would eat at McDonalds every day if I could get breakfast at any time, but since they stop serving it at 10:30 I rarely get the chance to eat there, and when I do have the chance and can get there on time, I’ll just skip it, Because I, like most people, like to have a morning routine, and when something interferes with that, it usually gets cut out, someone is much more likely to just forego having McD’s Breakfast, than to change their whole routine to get up and hour earlier, a lot of people just can’t change their routine, schedules etc.

    Scarcity of a product pisses off more people than it satisfies, You use Shoes as an Example of how scarcity can be good, but it fails, since the show you use is one of the most produced shoes in the world, yeah when they were released, it worked, but it didn’t take long before people stopped caring and just got irritated that they couldn’t get their own, which prompted Nike to start producing them en mass, Now while they are still an expensive and sought after shoe to this day, they are not rare, and you can walk into any store at any time and grab a pair.

    TL;DR People are more likely to not go to McD’s at all since they don’t serve breakfast when they want it, instead of to gettin up earlier to be able to buy it.

    They real reason they don’t do it is because breakfast costs less than lunch and dinner items, which is the only reason why those hours seem more profitable, almost every McD’s I’ve ever been to was completely packed during breakfast hours, while being almost deserted during dinner hours and having only a moderate amount of lunch customers(a lot of which I imagine are only ordering lunch because they were 30 minutes to late for breakfast)

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  3. Personally, I just don’t go to McDonalds during breakfast because Jack in the Box across the street has theirs all day. I don’t even know when McDonalds stops serving.
    I usually go for lunch: grab a side salad, coffee and a parfit.

  4. True, I love their breakfast, but personally that just ends up pissing me off and I stop going there for months. Screw that, I’ll just make my own sandwich.

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  7. Scarcity and rarity my arrse. if mcdonalds was so into being scarce why is one on every corner of my block? Am sure these desperate corporate devils will go into the corners ofyour bedroom if they knew it will generate them profit. Am sure its the culture of Mcdonalds which no one cares to change.

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  10. I agree with Joe’s reply to Danny’s post. If you take the time and tell the story of your ingredients in your signature dish, you’ll create an emotional attachment for the customer. They’ll want to find your restaurant, buy it, and tell their friends about it.

    Look up the Mast Brothers with their line of premium, hand made chocolate. After reading and watching videos about it, you just want to run to the store and get some!

    Moreover, Roy Slapper and his line of handmade denim. He explains the process and the heritage, which makes you feel a bond to the product:

    Just like joe said, create that scarcity and emotional bond; the people will come!

    1. Kevin, great examples!

      Another one that I can think of is http://www.dodocase.com/

      I like the video of them making the case, hand-crafting it to make it look like they spend a lot of time on it – which they do.

      Dang, I think they removed the video from their home page. Will find and repost

  11. I have a retail store in Long Beach and can attest that scarcity does work in retail. I have a vintage store, so my shoppers know that there are not many of these pieces around.

    Whenever I have a new shipment, I let my fans know on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

    Great post

    1. Great tip! Social media assets like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are excellent ways to get the word out. Additionally, they can be cost-effective solutions as they are free to use.

  12. Hi Joe, I have a restaurant in Los Angeles. It’s only 1 location, so I really don’t come close to having a national presence.

    Does the law of scarcity still apply to me?

    I’m already scarce being a 1-location shop, right? It seems to me that I need to maximize availability of my food at the right times to make money. What do you think?

    1. Hi Danny,

      Great question. Although there can be some difficulty in being a 1 location business, there are still plenty of ways to create the ‘demand buzz’ for your business.

      One example is to look at the menu items you have and to focus on building a story around some of them. A deli down my street is known for having great pastrami and they take advantage of this by telling customers how they cure the meat, prepare it and serve it.

      Another idea is to consider taking items off your menu and making them ‘seasonal.’

  13. Hey Joe, great post. You know who else does this? Apple

    That’s how they get all those long lines at the stores. If you don’t go early, you’re going to miss out. Although, I think it also has to do with people loving the energy of it all – standing in line with other Mac lovers, because they can easily get the product online.

    What are some tips to create buzz?

    1. If you have the resources, video can also be a great way to create interest.

      Using the same example of Apple, they typically put out a short 30 second video weeks in advance of a release of their product. This creates interest and buzz as well as awareness for people to put it down on their calendar for the release.

      Another way is to provide early release of your product to a select few individuals who you would consider an ‘influencer’. Using word-of-mouth, this is a great grassroots marketing approach.

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