CHICAGO — Say goodbye to those super-sized fries — McDonald’s is slimming down its menu.
The hamburger giant has started phasing out its trademark Supersize fries and drinks in its U.S. restaurants as part of an effort to simplify its menu and give customers choices that support a balanced lifestyle, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
By the end of 2004, super size will no longer be available at the nation’s 13,000-plus McDonald’s outlets except in certain promotions, McDonald’s spokesman Walt Riker said.
The move comes as the world’s largest restaurant company, and fast-food chains in general, are under growing public pressure to give consumers healthier food options in a nation that has suddenly become aware of its bulging waistline and the health dangers that come with it.
McDonald’s added entree salads last year and has been moving to provide more fruit, vegetable and yogurt options with its Happy Meals. But the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company remains a magnet for public concerns — and legal actions — when it comes to obesity.
Riker said the changes started going into effect in January.
“This core menu, which has been under development since 2002, simplifies our menu and restaurant operations and provides a balance of choices for our customers,” he said. “A component of this overall simplification, menu and balanced lifestyle strategy is the ongoing phase-out of the Supersize fry and the Supersize drink options.”
Supersize fries are a 7-ounce carton. McDonald’s will still sell “large” fries, the 6-ounce size, Riker said. The company did not immediately disclose other details of the menu changes.
Two lawsuits claiming McDonald’s hid the health risks of eating Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets were thrown out in federal court in New York last year.
But the issue hasn’t disappeared.
An award-winning documentary called “Super Size Me” has heaped on more unwanted publicity for McDonald’s. The documentary, which chronicles the deterioration of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s health during a monthlong experiment eating nothing but McDonald’s food, won a directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is set for wide release this spring.
Riker said the phasing out of super-sizing has “nothing to do with that (film) whatsoever.”
The company earlier issued a statement calling the documentary “a super-sized distortion of the quality, choice and variety available at McDonald’s.” It says the film is not about McDonald’s but about Spurlock’s decision to act irresponsibly by eating 5,000 calories a day — “a gimmick to make a film.”
Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchising executive and now an independent consultant for franchises, said the company has been promising to simplify the menu since before the trend toward healthier foods began.
“Yeah, obesity is a consideration,” said Adams, who operates Franchise Equity Group. “But health is just a component of this. The menu’s gotten too broad and the kitchens are unmanageable with all the new products.
“This is also an effort to speed up McDonald’s service,” he said. “The less buttons on the cash register, the more efficient the crew people can be.”
At the McDonald’s restaurant Edgard Alend manages in Chicago, customers buy about 100 to 150 “Extra Value” meals each day, with Supersize fries and drink.
Alend doesn’t think the loss would affect his restaurant’s revenue as much as his customers’ wallets.
“It’s one of the strongest ways for customers to get more for their money,” Alend said about the Super Size.
Jamie Cox, 19, dining at a McDonald’s in downtown Chicago with his girlfriend Tuesday night, had a mixed reaction to the news. He said he orders Supersize fries but usually throws out leftovers.
“It’s a waste,” he said. “Once they get cold, they’re nasty. But we would die without the (Supersize) drink.”