McDonald's Launches $5 Meal Deal And 'Free Fries Friday'

Aside from the tech-takeover with A.I. drive-thru ordering systems, robotic kitchens, and drone delivery, it looks like the biggest fast food industry trend this year is affordability (at long last). In May, McDonald's teased potential plans to release a $5 value meal. Now, that day has finally arrived ... almost. Starting June 25, the $5 meal deal is hitting participating McDonald's locations nationwide, per an official press release. It includes a McDouble or McChicken sandwich, a small fry, four-piece nugget, and small soft drink.

In anticipation of National French Fry Day, Mickey D's also announced plans to give away free fries of any size to McDonald's app users on July 13. But, the budget fry wave begins much sooner, and lasts through the end of 2024. Every Friday, McDonald's app users who spend at least $1 can get a free medium fry.

The past few months have seen more and more fast food giants dropping value meals, all modeled after the iconic, longstanding $5 Biggie Bag from Wendy's. At the end of May, Burger King brought back its $5 "Your Way" meal deal, which includes a choice between three sandwiches (Whopper Jr., Chicken Jr., or Bacon Cheeseburger) plus chicken nuggets, fries, and a drink. It isn't just traditional burger-and-fries fast food joints, either. Earlier this month, Starbucks hopped on the value train with its new $5 and $6 Pairings Menu. Although, whether or not this value-forward industry trend is here to stay remains to be seen.

Drawing budget-conscious consumers back to the Golden Arches

McDonald's has indicated that the $5 value meal will only be available for a limited time. The company has not specified exactly when the deal will end. The chain could be looking for a way to lure inflation-weary foodies back to the drive-thru lane as the nationwide cost-of-living crisis tightens consumer pocketbooks and eats away (dark humor pun intended) at their discretionary spending budget. For many consumers, fast food sits at a gray intersection of "treat" and "utili tarian necessity," which could ostensibly make it tough for chains to know how to best market to their audience. Apparently, judging by the recent industry trend, emphasizing value-centric concepts is the way to go.

According to the National Restaurant Association's 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report released in February, this year's consumers are a value-conscious crowd. Close to 50% of customers are reluctant to spend money, but chains might change their minds with a deal that appeals to them. Indeed, the official McDonald's press release announcing the $5 meal on Thursday seems to be playing to this demographic exactly, opening with a scenario that invoked memories of childhood and possible financial strain. It encouraged customers to recall asking their parents for McDonald's food and either having their wish granted or be being met with such replies as "We have food at home" and "You got McDonald's money?"