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How We Helped McDonald's Become Famous for Chicken

Woman holding a chicken burger
Mc Donalds logo


  1. The Client

    McDonald's is the world's largest fast food restaurant chain, serving over 69 million customers daily in over 100 countries in more than 40,000 outlets as of 2021.

  2. The Challenge

    Industry projections showed global growth in the chicken category for 2021-2026. While McDonald's boasts several iconic chicken menu items, they wanted to understand how to innovate (with chicken) in a way that was consumer relevant and brand relevant.

  3. The Solution

    We worked with McDonald's to understand the QSR industry landscape (and how chicken plays a role), assess McDonald's global brand in chicken, and identify the optimal menu offering going forwards.

  4. The Impact

    Based on our work together, McDonald's was able to identify short-term innovation opportunities and long-term innovation opportunities. Innovations were prioritized based on their consumer appeal, their fit with the McDonald’s brand and their ability to grow the McDonald’s customer base.  

The Client & Challenge

We're all familiar with McDonald's - they serve millions of people across the world every week. And while they have several staples on their menu - items they're well-loved and renowned for - they're always looking for ways to better serve their customers.

Knowing that there is growing opportunity to capture a piece of the chicken market meant that McDonald's needed to understand where to go next with their global menu. They needed a partner to assess the landscape, look specifically at their roster of menu items, and pinpoint where exactly innovation could take them.

The Solution

Dig Insights and McDonald’s partnered on a multi-phase consumer insight engagement to:

  1. Understand the QSR landscape in chicken

  2. Assess McDonald’s global brand in chicken

  3. Identify the optimal McDonald’s menu that includes chicken innovation 

Focusing just on this third stage of identifying the optimal McDonald’s menu that includes chicken innovation, several business questions needed to be addressed:

  • How do spicy options perform?

  • How incremental are other chicken items on their menu?

  • What is the role of the Chicken Big Mac on their menu?

  • How can they add a premium chicken sandwich to their menu without cannibalizing their current offering?

To answer these questions, the Dig Insights team leaned on our platform, Upsiide. The gamified, intuitive Upsiide consumer interfaces allowed us to test up to 50 in-market menu items and potential new menu items against each other. This revealed key insights such as: 

  • McDonald’s is not primarily thought of as a chicken QSR, but it has several chicken menu items that perform on par with offerings from chicken-focused QSR brands.

  • Chicken tenders are a popular innovation from McDonald’s, but projected loyalty is weak. This identifies a need to make chicken tenders more unique and compelling (potentially with the addition of unique dips)

  • Grilled chicken and bone in chicken are a poor fit with the McDonald’s brand

  • The Chicken Big Mac does not have the broadest appeal, but there is a group of consumers who find it highly compelling. This will help it to break through in market. Moreover, this innovation is incremental vs. the Big Mac, which helps the Chicken Big Mac to drive overall growth for McDonald’s

  • The Chicken Big Mac was identified as an ideal Limited Time Offer. When tested on Upsiide, the McDonald’s team discovered the innovation idea has a relatively narrow appeal (ie. niche) but a committed group of consumers who are very excited to try it. This commitment will translate into the in-market buzz we want to see with a limited time offer (LTO).

  • McCrispy was identified as a winning idea that is clearly positioned as a premium chicken sandwich.

The Outcome

The work that Dig Insights carried out allowed the McDonald's team to build out a holistic menu that could flex based on geography and that answered key questions like:

  • which innovations make the most sense for our brand?

  • what number of menu items should be offered?

  • what is the best combination of menu items to maximize reach?

The McCrispy launched as a global permanent menu innovation and is already a multi-billion dollar item. The team walked away with a path forwards to stand out within the QSR chicken space.

Dig has become an invaluable partner across so many aspects of our business – and especially for our global team. We’ve worked with Dig on some of our most pressing and strategic customer problems to solve and they truly partner in finding real, workable solutions that connect insight to strategy. Dig goes beyond giving us the data and even the “why,” they are our partners in the “so what” for our business.

We had the opportunity to partner on global menu research that supported a unified, global perspective on our chicken portfolio of products. They were critical partners in helping us craft a compelling story, grounded in data and human truths, to support our recommendations to our Senior Leaders.

Dana Grinshpan, Customer Experience Insights Manager