Ronald McDonald may suddenly have his sights set on selling food by the box-full.
The nation's fast-food giant is offering a multi-person boxed meal in the Kansas City market - the first time it has sold such a meal in the United States.
The "Blitz Box," which includes two Quarter Pounders with cheese, two medium fries and 10 Chicken McNuggets with dipping sauces, sells for $14.99. It is tied to a local promotion with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The promotion that began Sept. 2, is scheduled to run through the entire football season, says Lisa McComb, a McDonald's spokeswoman.
But if it's a hit, it could expand far beyond this, projects Scott Hume, editor of the BurgerBusiness.com blog, which first reported the move. "There are so many advantages to this tactic that it's hard to believe it won't eventually be tried by McDonald's nationally," Hume says.
McDonald's is mum on that possibility. "We can't speculate on what other markets may or may not do," says McComb.
With fast-food sales continuing to soften - and restaurant industry sales down or flat the past three months - McDonald's, the industry's biggest player, seems determined to try just about anything to turn around the ship.
"It's like they're throwing things at a wall to see what sticks," says Sam Oches, editor of QSR, an industry trade publication. "It looks like another move on McDonald's part to redefine value."
Outside the U.S. market - which has become an increasingly large generator of new domestic products - McDonald's has successfully sold food in boxes for several years, Hume says. In 2010, it rolled out a Family Dinner Box in Australia with four burgers, four fries, four drinks and an order of McNuggets. It had a similar family meal, dubbed McBox, in the Czech Republic. And in Malaysia it's even tried a Family Breakfast Box, notes Hume.
But watch out, KFC and Domino's. Until now, fast-food sold in bulk has mostly been a chicken and pizza thing because while consumers can generally stomach cold chicken and pizza, they don't typically like cold burgers or fries.
In recent years, the pizza giants have tried to add variety to their bulk-food offerings with everything from bread sticks to pasta. At the same time, Burger King has begun delivery service at select stores in some urban markets - which, among other things, can encourage larger orders, Oches says.
But the overall restaurant industry trend has generally been in the opposite direction away from bulk, family meals and toward more personalized offerings that are slightly upscaled - typically for $1 or $2 more, Oches says.
Even KFC has slowly moved away from pushing its family buckets and increasingly markets individual eats.