Why Did McDonald's McPizza End Up In Failure?

At its very basic, McDonald's serves three main menu items: beef, chicken, and potatoes. Whether you're eating a Quarter Pounder with a side of fries or a six-piece McNugget meal as a quick lunch, McDonald's has done pretty well for itself by serving up burgers, fries, and chicken products. But like any other restaurant, McDonald's has attempted to "branch out," or expand its menu to cater to what it saw as an untapped market. Some of these attempts have become infamous examples of a company being better off sticking to what it knows best, and McDonald's has seen more than a few spectacular menu flops.

One such example of McDonald's broadening its menu was the McPizza. According to Today, McDonald's decided to explore the world of fast-food pizza in the late 1980s. This, if a 1991 report from Nation's Restaurant News is to be believed, wasn't just an attempt to muscle in on the likes of Pizza Hut and Domino's, but part of a grander project to help build a full-fledged dinner menu to entice the evening crowd. McDonald's was so devoted to this plan that the company spent large amounts of time (and most importantly, money) developing specialized ovens designed to cook pizza as fast as possible.

The concept was sound: People love McDonald's, and people love pizza. If that was the case, then, how could the McPizza fail?

The McPizza took too long to make

Go down to your local McDonald's and order anything you want off the menu. Then, grab a seat and time just how long it takes to get your order. Chances are you probably won't be waiting over five minutes for your number to get called up. Speedy and efficient service is part of what makes McDonald's so successful. It is this focus on quick service that made the McPizza a bit of a challenge to fully implement in a normal McDonald's store.

According to Better Marketing, the average wait time for a McPizza was somewhere around eleven minutes, or possibly longer if the restaurant was particularly busy. This meant that, while other customers would be in and out of the store in just a few minutes, there would be a group of people still waiting for their food, causing a bit of a backup. In fact, it's even stated that the wait times became so long that customers were told to wait in their cars and their pizza would be brought out to them.

Compare an eleven-minute (or longer) waiting time with what McDonald's was promising. Commercials raved that customers would only have to wait only five minutes for their pizza, and that "you've never had pizza so good, so fast." McDonald's promise of fast and hot pizza didn't seem to hold water in the real world, and as customers left with bags of burgers and fries, McPizza customers were stuck waiting.

The McPizza was expensive compared to other menu items

If speed is part of what makes McDonald's so successful, then value would be perhaps the cornerstone. Even in today's world of rising costs and inflation, you can get a cheeseburger and fries for only a couple bucks. But although a hamburger in the '90s would cost only a dollar or less, the McPizza was worth nearly five times that amount.

As The New York Times tells us, a standard 14-inch pie clocks in at around $5.80, while the larger pizza would come in at somewhere at $9 or $10 dollars. While today a deluxe pizza for $10 wouldn't be seen as too bad a deal, you must remember this is McDonald's we're talking about. Why spend $10 on a pizza when you could spend that same amount of money on some burgers, a lot of fries, and some McNuggets for everyone? It was a case of people wanting more bang for their buck.

If the price and wait time weren't enough, other pizza chains were hounding McDonald's for its attempt to cash in on the pizza business. Pizza Hut, in particular, even went so far as to call the McPizza the "McFrozen" and urged customers to come and enjoy a "real pizza" (via Insider).

Oddly enough, pizza still remains a menu option at certain McDonald's locations. If you go to Florida to the World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's, you can grab a slice of pizza to go along with your fries.