The burger giant on Thursday said it plans to expand its McPlant test to some 600 locations in the San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth areas starting Feb. 14. The move is designed to give the company a better sense of consumer demand for the product.

“After planting the seed with a small-scale McPlant test in eight restaurants late last year, McDonald’s USA is expanding the test to select restaurants in your area to help us understand customer demand,” the company said in an update of its announcement of the original eight-store test.

But the expansion also continues the product’s path toward a potential national introduction, which could happen as early as next year. The company, however, has not shared any plans for any broader introduction.

The announcement confirms an earlier report from BTIG analyst Peter Saleh indicating that the company would bring the plant-based burger to more markets this year. The burger is made in partnership with Beyond Meat using ingredients such as peas, rice and potatoes.

Saleh suggested at the time of his report that the burger could make its introduction on nationwide menus as early as 2023.

McDonald’s has been conducting its limited operations test of the McPlant at eight locations. Saleh suggested that the McPlant was selling well in the limited test, with about 70 of the burgers sold per restaurant, per day.

McDonald’s has been toying with plant-based burgers for years as rivals such as Burger King jumped head-first into the trend. The company tested a plant-based burger in Canada starting in 2019 and then in 2020 announced the creation of the McPlant, giving global markets the option for putting the plant-based burger on their menus.

Various countries have since tested or added the product to its menu, including the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria. But the U.S., where McDonald’s has 13,800 locations, is the company’s biggest market.

The addition of the product to McDonald’s menu would take the plant-based meat trend even further into the mainstream. The company is by far the biggest restaurant chain in the U.S. Its addition would suggest the chain feels confident that demand for the product is broad enough to support a large-scale introduction.

At the same time, the move presents some risks for McDonald’s. For one thing, it adds a new burger patty at a time when smaller menus have helped its operators serve customers more quickly. That’s important given that up to 90% of the chain’s sales remain in the drive-thru.

It also presents more operations challenges at a time when labor remains scarce and ease of operations is considered an important point for keeping workers on hand.

The product is also not vegan—it is prepared on the same grill in which the chain makes eggs and burgers. – Source: Restaurant Business.

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