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McDonald's Menu Brings Back a New Take on a Fan Favorite Item

That's not the only change the fast-food giant has made in a key part of the world.

Most fast-food chains have one or two menu items that they do best and are most known for -- there's the Crunchy Taco at Taco Bell, owned by Yum! Brands  (YUM) - Get Free Report, the Wendy's  (WEN) - Get Free Report Frosty, and the chicken sandwich at Restaurant Brands International  (QSR) - Get Free Report's Popeyes, whose success countless brands have been trying to replicate for the last four years.

But what about McDonald's  (MCD) - Get Free Report, one of the kings of fast food? While one favorite item may be the Big Mac, the golden fries are also what helped set off McDonald's success at the turn of the century. The chain reportedly sells over 9 million pounds of its fries every day and has sold over 4 trillion since the first Golden Arches opened in the 1950s.

The vast majority of Americans picture McDonald's fries as nothing more than thin and long golden pieces of potato but, in many other countries, the chain also offers other takes -- there are the potato wedges at McDonald's France and, in Canada, waffle fries.

Cut with a mandolin to get that crinkle shape, waffles fries are the signature potato offering at chicken chain Chick-fil-A. But at different points in the chain's history, McDonald's offered this shape of fry at its Canadian branches -- once in 2016 and then again last April.

We're now in January 2023 and McDonald's Canada just announced that it is once again bringing back the Waffle Fries for a limited-time promotion. 

Along with Spicy McNuggets, the Waffle Fries are now available at locations across the country in packages equaling 390 calories.

"Made with whole potatoes cut in a lattice design and coated in a crispy batter," reads the menu description.

Perhaps trying not to infringe on Chick-fil-A (which isn't in Canada) or mess with a classic, McDonald's has never offered the Waffles Fries south of the Canadian border.

McDonald's Waffle Fries Lead KL

With Inflation And Potato Shortages, Fry Shape Can Make a Difference

But variety when it comes to potato shape is generally a good thing at a time when both the cost of food and its availability are subject to fluctuation.

Last September, potato production in the U.S. was calculated to be down 7% from 2021 due to California and Colorado wildfires and other weather-related factors. Supply of certain potato varieties, such as Russet Baker's, was down by as much as 35%.

Varying fry options could allow McDonald's to use a different type of potato and have more diversity if there's a problem with one type.

But there is also the overall issue of food inflation -- in December, the consumer price index for food was at 10.4%. This is another monthly drop from the 12% increase observed in November but still high enough to make itself felt for many grocery shoppers. 

While higher cost of food has pushed many chains to raise prices by approximately 6% between 2021 and 2022, this has not necessarily led to lower numbers of visitors. At Wendy's, the average menu item rose by more than 35% from $4.90 in September 2021 to $6.63 in October 2022.

In the summer, Placer.ai calculated that while overall restaurant visits fell 7.6% in July and 13.7% in August, traffic to McDonald's and Chipotle  (CMG) - Get Free Report increased by a respective 4.7% and 3.1% as those who would have otherwise gone to more expensive restaurants increasingly picked the cheaper option.