McDonald’s Japan to ration fries after supply chain crunch

McDonald’s Japan has joined the unfortunate ranks of Toyota, Sony and other industrial titans that have fallen victim to a chip supply crisis.

The fast-food group said on Tuesday that because of delivery delays from Canada, it would only be able to offer the smallest serving of French fries at its 2,900 outlets.

An emergency plan to ensure “continuous supply of french fries to customers” has been introduced, said a company spokesman.

Medium and large servings will be cut and customers would be offered a small discount on meal prices, he said, adding that deliveries of fries by airfreight had started to arrive in Japan.

Supplies of hash browns, which appear on the breakfast menu, appear unaffected by the delivery disruption.

McDonald’s said the fries rationing would start on December 24 and was expected to end on December 30. The shortage comes during the festive period which is traditionally dominated by rival KFC.

For nearly half a century, Japanese consumers have ordered KFC chicken on Christmas thanks to an advertising campaign that successfully linked the fast-food chain with the holiday. KFC operates a family bucket pre-booking system to ensure that it meets the December 25 rush for deep-fried poultry.

In an annual attempt to dislodge KFC from its top Yuletide spot, McDonald’s is running a seasonal campaign centered on a bargain serving of chicken nuggets. The advertisement, which was produced before Tuesday’s announcement, shows a family enjoying both the nuggets and the largest serving of fries.

Japan is one of the fast-food company’s largest markets outside of the US.

The chip issue was a result of the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and a severe backlog at the Vancouver port following recent flooding and landslides that destroyed highways.

The blockage aggravated the supply chain turmoil caused by a pandemic boom for goods and congested ports that have significantly pushed up freight costs.

Burger King said it had no plans to change its french fries sales. KFC could not immediately be reached for comment.

Fragilities in Japan’s potato supply chain were an issue before the pandemic. In 2017, a weak autumn harvest of potatoes in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido led to a shortage of crisps and, in some instances, hoarding by consumers alarmed at the impending absence of their favorite snacks.

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