McDonald's Reveals Why They Killed Healthy Menu Items

McDonald’s used to heavily market its salads. But since 2020, salads have vanished. The reason? McDonald’s believes customers mainly crave burgers and fries.

“If people really want salads from McDonald’s, we will gladly relaunch salads,” said Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s USA. “But what our experience has proven is that’s not what the consumer’s looking for from McDonald’s,” he added.

“They’re looking for great french fries, a $5 meal deal, a hot fresh sandwich. So, that’s what we’re going to continue to provide them.”

Offering healthy meals or vegetarian options can prevent a “veto vote.” This occurs when a group skips a restaurant that lacks choices for picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions. McDonald’s likely introduced salads to avoid this veto and stay in line with healthy food trends.

For decades, McDonald’s served salads. They allowed diet-conscious customers to dine there. “The salads were the only half-healthy item I could eat at McDonald’s,” noted one diet blogger. For some, it was a way to feel healthier, even if they weren’t.

In 2018, salads became a liability. Hundreds got sick from an intestinal illness linked to contaminated food or water. The CDC identified McDonald’s salads as a likely source. McDonald’s stopped selling salads at 3,000 restaurants as a precaution.

Two years later, Covid hit. Restaurants faced labor shortages and supply chain issues. McDonald’s slimmed down its menu, focusing on popular items. Salads were cut to simplify operations. In 2022, franchise operators could serve pre-made salads, but many chose not to.

The strategy worked. Sales surged as McDonald’s updated and marketed core items. Now, they focus on promoting their $5 meal deal over competitors, leaving salads behind.

Another item not returning soon? A plant-based burger. McDonald’s tested it a few years ago.

“I don’t think the US consumer is looking for McPlant or other plant-based proteins from McDonald’s now,” Erlinger said. However, he added, “it’s a trend that we’ll continue to monitor.”