How McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce, Shamrock Shake boost business

FILE - This Tuesday, June 28, 2016, file photo shows a McDonald's sign at one of the company's restaurants in Miami. On Thursday, March 16, 2017, McDonald's said it has been notified by Twitter that its account was "compromised" after it appeared to

Two of McDonald’s cult-favorite menu items are back in stores this month as the chain looks to lure old and new customers amid tough competition in the fast-food industry.

McDonald’s on Monday restocked its stores with another limited offering of the “Rick and Morty”-inspired Szechuan dipping sauce that sparked a fan frenzy last October. The condiment hit stores days after McDonald’s “Shamrock Shake” returned for its annual limited-time run through St. Patrick’s Day.

McDonald’s and other fast-food brands like Starbucks, Chipotle and Taco Bell have regularly experimented with new menu offerings in a bid to drive foot traffic at stores in recent years. While McDonald’s does not break out sales figures for its limited-time offers, items like Szechuan sauce and the Shamrock Shake can reignite customer interest, analysts said.

“There is certainly a boost in the amount of traffic going through McDonald’s restaurants during these sorts of promotions,” Neil Saunders, a retail analyst at GlobalData Retail, told FOX Business. “They can also pull in lapsed diners and those who do not usually use McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s said it will ship 20 million packets of its Szechuan sauce to U.S. restaurants starting on Monday. The sauce, which debuted in 1998 to coincide with the release of Disney’s “Mulan” and rocketed back to popularity after appearing on the “Rick and Morty” cartoon series, drew massive crowds at McDonald’s locations last October. Packets of the condiment sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay after supplies ran out.

While the Shamrock Shake hasn’t caused any riots, the minty beverage has been one of McDonald’s most popular limited-time offers for decades. Other brands, most notably Starbucks, have sought to establish similar followings with the launch of items like the pumpkin spice latte and the multi-colored Unicorn Frappuccino.

While the menu items draw customers back to McDonald’s, Saunders says the promotions likely have a minor impact on total sales.

“Because they are one-off events, the boost in trade trends to be transient and things quickly get back to normal,” Saunders said. “Promotions like the McPick 2 Menu which run for a while tend to have a sustained impact on footfall and boost trade over a longer period of time.”