McDonald's test of the meatless McPlant burger could expand to 700 stores by February or March after the product "performed exceptionally well" in recent weeks, according to global financial services firm BTIG.
The Beyond Meat item started in eight restaurants on November 3 across Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, and California. Based on check-ins with franchisees, BTIG analyst Peter Saleh estimated that stores are selling as many as 500 McPlant burgers per week, or roughly 70 each day, with little to no operational challenges or complexity. That's far above BTIG's original forecast, which was 25 burgers per day, per location. For frame of reference, Burger King sells about 20 Impossible Whoppers each day per restaurant.
The more impressive part is these results are driven by in-store promotion and word of mouth since the burger giant didn't apply any advertising resources to this test. Saleh has heard from industry executives and franchisees that McDonald's is likely to launch the McPlant in hundreds of stores in the coming months as an LTO for six to eight weeks. But with this next launch, Beyond Meat and McDonald's are expected to provide local and regional advertising, which will likely boost the average to above 70 burgers per day.
A full-blown national roll out in 2022 is unlikely given the current marketing calendar and scale of McDonald's system, Saleh said. He suggested the expanded test in the first quarter will inform the chain on whether to move forward with the national decision in 2023.
According to BTIG projections, if 700 restaurants sold 71 McPlant burgers each day over seven weeks at a price of $1.35 per patty, the test would see sales of $3.3 million. However, Saleh cautioned that tests typically result in higher sales than what's achieved long-term.
"We expect these sales volumes to moderate considerably over time," he said in a note.
Because of the initial demand, Saleh doesn't expect Beyond Meat to fulfill orders in real time. The more realistic scenario is McDonald's building an inventory of patties in cold storage ahead of the bigger launch in early 2022. Beyond Meat's product can be stored for up to 12 months, which eases supply chain woes for restaurants. Saleh expects the product to be produced now, shipped to distribution centers in test markets, and remain in storage until the launch date.
The BTIG analyst also believes a successful roll out could help Beyond Meat enter more of the menu.
"In our view, a successful launch of McPlant in a few markets could not only open the door to a national rollout, but could also allow Beyond Meat to eventually introduce other proteins, such as Chicken, onto McDonald's menu," Saleh said.
The McPlant platform was first revealed in the fall of 2020, and a few months later, Beyond Meat was named the preferred supplier. The McPlant patty is composed of ingredients like peas, rice, and potatoes. It's served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and a slice of American cheese.