Nov 24, 2021 - Economy

Fast food's celebrity strategy is working

McDonald's golden arches

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Fast-food giants are tapping stars with huge social media followings to hype menu items that already exist.

Why it matters: There are signs that it's invigorating sales — and every hot celebrity could soon try to lock down these deals.

"It's pure marketing. There isn't an exciting or new product attached to any of these," says Jim Sanderson, an analyst at Northcoast Research.

Weekly change in foot traffic at McDonald's and celebrity meal launches
Data:; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Catch up quick: First came McDonald's, which began launching limited-edition "famous orders" last year.

  • Others — like Tim Hortons, which will launch doughnut holes with Justin Bieber next week — are following suit.

What to watch: Some launches correlate with a traffic spike, per data from analytics firm (it doesn't track stores abroad).

  • Popeyes' foot traffic rose 9% when it put rapper Megan Thee Stallion's name on a special sauce earlier this month — the biggest weekly jump since February.
  • McDonald's biggest jump in foot traffic last year coincided with the Travis Scott meal debut. The company said that month was best for same-store sales in almost a decade.

Yes, but: Burger King's launch of meals with hip-hop star Nelly and others last month wasn't enough to push that quarter's U.S. sales past 2019 levels.

What's next: McDonald's will partner with Mariah Carey ("All I Want for Christmas Is You") for 12 days of holiday deals.

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