NEW YORK -- McDonald's, which has been struggling to keep up with a raft of new menu items, says the McRib won't be available nationally this year.
The fast-food chain says it's leaving it up to local franchise groups to decide whether to offer the pork sandwich, which comes with pickles, onions and barbecue sauce. That's a change from the past three years, when McDonald's had put the McRib on the national menu as a way to boost sales in the back half of the year.
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Now the company is going back to the days when the sandwich was a regional offering. The lack of widespread availability in years past in some regions helped give the sandwich a fabled status, with one fan even creating a McRib Locator to help people find the sandwich. The sandwich's place in pop culture is also in part due to its unusual patty, which is shaped to look as though there are bones inside.
Tyler Litchenberger, a McDonald's spokeswoman, said the company had "other national priorities" this year, such as its new Mighty Wings. She said franchises that decided to sell the McRib have had it for the past couple of weeks.
Litchenberger did not have details on how widely it would be available, but said Chicago, Dallas and New York were among the major markets that are offering it.
McDonald's Corp., based in Oak Brook, has been stepping up its pace of limited-time offers and new menu introductions over the past year. The strategy is seen as a way to keep customers interested amid intensifying competition. But Jeff Stratton, head of McDonald's U.S. business, conceded last week that the pace has been too fast and created operational issues for restaurants.
In its latest quarter, McDonald's said sales edged up just 0.7 percent at U.S. restaurants open at least a year. The company has been struggling to boost sales since late last year, when a key monthly sales figure fell for the first time in nearly a decade.