Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: 10 Chicken McNuggets (w/Szechuan sauce), Mac Jr, ice water

McDonald's has been hyping the return of their legendary Szechuan dipping sauce on social media all week.  The sauce originated back in 1998 as a cross promotion with Disney's feature "Mulan", and has had rabid fans demanding its comeback ever since.  People were selling years-old packets on eBay for $800.

McDonald's brought it back in a really poorly conceived one-day promotion last year that had fans banging their heads against the golden arches, so now they've brought it back for real, with 20,000,000 of the little dipping tubs available systemwide in the US.

I never tried it the first time, so why not now.

In order to check availability, I checked sauce options in McDonald's sad and terrible app (which I've actually used a couple of times now, and it just made it sadder.)  Szechuan sauce was NOT listed among the dipping options available for McNuggets as of Monday.  After running a lunch errand today, I went to check the app again, but realized I'd left my phone at the office.  Jeepers, why didn't I just leave my pants while I was at it.  So I dropped in to the closest McDonald's.  There's no indication of availability anywhere in the open, but they have signs-o-plenty announcing that "HOT MUSTARD IS BACK!"  Seriously, who's behind McDonald's marketing coordination, and how are they still employed?

Frowning Counter Girl: "Do we have WHAT?"

Me: "Szechuan sauce."


"SZECHUAN sauce."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"SESH-WAN sauce.  For the McNuggets."

She stares for a moment, walks down to the drive through, stares at a bin, returns, holds out a packet of Szechuan sauce, and asks "THIS?"

"Yes.  That."

She walks back to the bin, drops the sauce packet, and returns to the register.  I order.  She shouts down to a random employee handling orders "HE WANTS THE SZECHUAN!" as if she knew what I was asking all along and was just messing with me.

I get my drink and wait for my food at the counter.  Because even though they have the plastic numbers for table service, they're not giving anybody those or delivering food to tables.

Next customer has ordered through the app.  He holds out his phone in front of Frowning Counter Girl, displaying his mobile order code.

Frowning Counter Girl:  "I don't know what that is.  Technology and I don't get along too well.  I like the old days better."

She then stares at him, She's not going to ask anyone for assistance.  The guy ends up moving down the counter and asking others for help.

The Szechuan sauce is pretty good.  Wouldn't be my favorite by any means, but I see why people would love it.  My all-time favorite McNugget dipping sauce was Sweet Chili sauce.  I'd like to have that back.

I've talked about how McDonald's has too many items on the menu and what they could do to slim down and be more efficient, but I really think the opposite of McNugget sauces.  Those are something simple and cheap with a long shelf life they could really capitalize on.  Offer ten different options.  Twenty.  Fifty.  Offer a world tour of sauces similar to Old Chicago's world tour of beers.  Make it a fun online social club thing.  People of all ages would have a BLAST with that.  And they'd sell more McNuggets, which have to be one of their higher margin items.

Think about it, McDonald's.  Give me back my Sweet Chili Sauce.  Keep Szechuan and Hot Mustard for good.  Add a Spicy Ranch.  A Hoisin.  A Ghost Pepper.  Banana Ketchup.  Offer a mystery flavor guessing contest like Oreo did last year.

Just go McNuts.