November 18, 2016
The McRib Is Back – Here’s How To Find It

McDonald's has decided to bring back one of its most popular menu items of all time – the McRib. But, there's a catch.

This sweet, pork patty sandwich served on a home-style roll, slathered with the iconic McRib barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions is only available at specific locations, for a limited time. Shocking, but, don't worry, advances in modern technology have made it possible to find the nearest McRib within seconds.

This week, for the first time ever, McDonald's released a new iOS 10 McRib Finder iMessage app. Using your devices location, the app helps point customers to the nearest McRib. The app also includes a McRib keyboard and several McRib-themed stickers.

Twitter users have voiced their excitement in wake of the sandwich's return:

In 2013, an enthusiastic McRib fan created an unofficial McRib Locator website that utilized user-submitted data to map out where the McRib could be found.

According to DIGIDAY, only half of the country's McDonald's will carry the McRib this year, down from 75 percent in 2014.

Paul Matson, McDonald's director of social engagement for the U.S., said that the brand is on a mission to "innovate every step in the consumer-buying process," through what he calls "quick wins" – or quick digital projects that will result in a bigger outcome.

The brand is using the McRib app as a way to create and improve future product launches.

"The impetus is not just to understand who is buying McDonald, but it's to make the experience more convenient," Matson told DIGIDAY.

According to the brand's internal figures, approximately 80 percent of U.S. McDonald's customers eat at the fast-food chain a week.

The app launch is a part of McDonald's digital initiative that began with new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, who became part of the brand's team last March. Since Easterbrook's boarding, McDonald's hasn't been shy about needing a turnaround as more and more millennials opt out of Big Macs in favor of healthier, fast-casual food, reports DIGIDAY.

In 2015, Nielsen conducted a global health and wellness survey in which respondents in 60 countries were asked to rate the importance of 27 different health attributes for the foods they buy. Surprisingly, the survey showed higher health ratings among Millennials (21-34).

"While age often dictates a need for foods that contain certain health attributes, it is the youngest consumers who are most willing to back up their sentiments with their wallets," Susan Dunn, executive vice president, Global Professional Services, for Nielsen said in a statement. "As Millennials' purchasing power increases, manufacturers and retailers that make the effort to understand and connect with the needs of this generation can increase their odds of success."

Last year, McDonald's sent teams to SXSW in Austin, Texas, to work with startups via a pitch competition to make the company digital-friendly. At the conference, ideas such as mobile ordering, voice-recognition in drive-thru speakers, and drone delivery were thrown around.

"I think the ultimate evolution (of food delivery) is to be in a Honda Odyssey, ordering McDonald's through GrubHub integrated on the screen," Stan Chia, GrubHub's senior vice president of operations said during a SXSW panel in the McDonald's lounge.

Matson claims that McDonald's is going to accelerate spending on technology, however, he declined to comment on just how big the digital team is.

"We know customers respond well, and certainly it breathes new life into our restaurants and into the brand," Easterbrook said in a second-quarter earnings call.

Last month, the brand revealed that same-store sales have increased 1.3 percent.

"A restaurant locator is table stakes, but customers don't always rely on the resources we provide them," Matson said. "But here's a piece of information only we would know: Who's serving the McRib?"

[Feature Image by David Paul Morris/Getty Images]