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What’s on the Menu? What Day Is Today?

Siemond Chan and Lisa Scherzer
The McDonald's Shamrock Shake Returns (ABC News)

Pumpkin spice lattes in the fall. Heart-shaped donuts at Valentine’s Day. And of course, in time for St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, McDonald’s famous Shamrock Shake. These food items don’t hold permanent spots on the menu, but rather are part of the fast-food industry’s “limited time offer” strategy meant to lure customers in for here-today-gone-tomorrow offerings.
As a Wall Street Journal article noted this month, using a change of season or holiday to come out with — and test — a new product is a marketing ploy, but one that’s often successful. According to Technomic, a food industry research firm, limited time offers increased 25% over the last five years among the 250 biggest chains, the Journal article noted. People are more likely to bite on these offerings, like new coffee flavors or pizza toppings that are only available for a few weeks or months. Take, for example, the Lent-friendly menu items (read: fish) available at several franchises now. (Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, which began Feb. 13 and ends March 30.) McDonald’s rolled out Fish McBites this year, Wendy’s is promoting its Premium Fish Fillet, and Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s introduced a Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich to the menu.

Here’s a look at the short-lived items added to some of the major fast-food restaurants’ menus throughout the year: