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For McRib Fans, Search for the Sandwich Is Worth the Effort

For McRib Fans, Search for the Sandwich Is Worth the Effort
Image credit: Arthur Bovino

McDonald’s will not offer the McRib nationally this year, giving those on the hunt for the polarizing sandwich a new set of challenges.

The fast-food chain, which has been busy with new food and beverage offerings, is allowing local franchise groups to decide whether to carry the seasonal sandwich. Markets including New York, Chicago and Dallas will have the McRib as a local option.

For many, finding a McRib will take more effort than in previous years. Fortunately, McRib fans are used to the struggle associated with finding their beloved pork sandwich.

“Prior to [the last three years], the McRib would pop up at random places during the year,” said Alan Klein, creator of the McRib Locator, a website and Android app that tracks where the sandwich is available. “I recall one March a friend sent me a picture of him eating a McRib on a Florida beach while I was freezing in snowpacked Minnesota with no McRib.”

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The McRib, a boneless pork patty molded into a rib-like shape, slathered in BBQ sauce and topped with pickle and onion, made its debut in 1982. After three farewell tours in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the sandwich has only been made available for short time periods and in limited regions in the U.S. The last three years, McDonald’s has put McRib on the national menu for a period near the end of the year, usually in late autumn.

The limited access to the McRib has produced cult-like fans of the sandwich. Its popularity becomes clear when viewing Klein’s McRib Locator, which a McDonald’s representative now recommends as a tool for customers seeking the sandwich.

Klein created the McRib Locator in 2008 as a meteorologist exploring how to use Google Maps. The first time the McRib returned nationally, the site received over 90,000 views on a single day, overwhelming its hosting service. While recently the site has averaged around 2,000 views a day, the return of the McRib to franchises has caused a spike, hitting 7,000 views yesterday.

“For some, they like the sandwich as it bring something different to the menu that has not been replicated by other venues,” said Klein. “Of course, there is also the limited availability component where fans want to get their McRib before it is gone.”

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This year, the McRib Locator has already charted around 1,500 sightings, with 300 confirmations (confirmed by users emailing Klein a photo of their receipt).

McDonald’s embraces the sandwich’s elusive appeal. “The McRib only comes once a year and you never know when. Tasting one is like catching a glimpse of a falling star. Or Bigfoot,” reads one McDonald’s 101 reasons to eat a McRib.

For McRib super-fans, comparing the sandwich to a falling star is hardly a stretch. “I nearly drove four hours last year to get one, however found there was one closer as I prepared to leave,” said Klein. “If the McRib were to return to a more sporadic availability I certainly could see myself taking a longer trip to find one.”

McDonald’s decision to put a hold on the national launch of the McRib stems from “a busy fall with new food and beverages,” according to McDonald’s representative Tyler Litchenberger. McDonald’s plans to launch new menu items, including Mighty Wings, Southwest Premium McWrap and White Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha, in November and December.

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Kate Taylor is a staff writer for Entrepreneur.com.

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