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April 21, 2021

Can a free cup lure coffee drinkers from Tim's to McDonald's?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Say what you want about McDonald’s, but there’s a reason they’ve served over 99 billion, or approximately half the people convinced Paula Abdul is a raging alcoholic.

Mickey D’s is again proving why it might be the savviest restaurant chain around, offering free coffee for the next two weeks in a bid to nab about the only market share in fast food they don’t already have.

That’s right, every morning until May 3rd, you can walk into any of McDonald’s 1,400 Canadian locations and they’ll give you a small coffee absolutely free.

The only catches to the deal aren’t really catches at all. You have to get the cup between 5:00-10:30 a.m., you can only get one per customer and the deal isn’t available with an extra value meal.

Other than that, you’re in the clear.

On the surface, this is a pretty great bargain. You pay nothing – you don’t even have to buy a burger or anything, so people with the “I wouldn’t touch McDonald’s food EVER!!!” high-horse argument can’t complain – and you get a free cup of coffee that’s, by all accounts, pretty underrated. (I call this the Subway Cookie Theory, reserved for fast food items you’d never really think to order but turn out to be delicious.)

Of the coffee drinkers I asked for this post, the reviews I got for McDonald’s coffee ranged from “surprisingly good” to “better than Tim Hortons.”

And while that last statement probably ticks you off, that’s where the genius in this free coffee promotion lies. McDonald’s appears to have a pretty good coffee product they’re confident in, but have never had a window to steal drinkers away from the major retailers.

But with the economy crapping the bed and Tim’s and Starbucks either reeling from poor sales or having to shutter stores altogether, you can easily make a case that people might turn elsewhere for a cup of joe now -- especially when it’s free.

And the Globe and Mail points out how the two-week promo (the deal started yesterday) will benefit McDonald’s even more than just getting its coffee out there.

“If you can get someone to try your product every day for two weeks it becomes an acquired taste,” market analyst Michael Krestell tells the newspaper.

“To get them into a routine you have the potential to break (them from) a previous habit. It’s no coincidence.”

Turning the rabid Tim’s faithful away from their familiar cup won’t be easy, but damnit if McDonald’s isn’t going to try.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...