McDonald's pulls spicy chicken sandwich amid weak sales

Thursday, July 13, 2006

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Some like it hot -- but apparently not at McDonald's.

The fast-food chain confirmed Wednesday it is taking its spicy chicken sandwich off the menu less than six months after its heavily marketed debut, reflecting disappointing sales.

McDonald's called the Hot 'n' Spicy McChicken its spiciest item ever when it introduced it to its 13,700 U.S. restaurants in January and said it reflected changing consumer tastes. Its launch followed the success of a spicy chicken sandwich at rival Wendy's.

But company spokesman Bill Whitman said Wednesday that the results from a half-year in the restaurants "does not meet those hurdles that we have for products to stay on our core menu."

He said the sandwich would be brought back periodically as a promotional item, citing its devoted following among some customers.

Another new chicken product will replace spicy chicken: snack wraps, or chicken, cheese and other ingredients wrapped in a tortilla.

The spicy chicken sandwich still has strong backing at Wendy's, which announced Wednesday that it is making it even hotter this summer by offering a version with pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapenos and a chipotle sauce in some markets.

The "4-Alarm Spicy Chicken" sandwich promotion came within days of the first reports surfacing about McDonald's plans to pull its version, but spokesman Bob Bertini insisted it was not done in response to its competitor.

"McDonald's has to do what they do," he said from the company's Dublin, Ohio, headquarters. "For us, we have a product that has been around since 1996, it's one of the most popular items on our menu, and our success with spicy chicken over the years gives us some opportunities to broaden the platform for that product."

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