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The McRib has Returned. Is McDonald’s Bouncing Back?

After a year of cost-saving menu cuts, McDonald’s is rolling out a high-profile addition.

After a year of canceled events, one thing in franchising is actually getting uncancelled: the McRib is coming back.

McDonald’s announced in October that its iconic barbecue sandwich would return to restaurants nationwide for the first time since 2012. Now, the time has finally arrived, and McDonald's is celebrating the "sauciest moment of the year" by giving away 10,000 free sandwiches to hungry fans with its "Shave 4 McRib Sweepstakes," according to a press release.

"Beard or no beard, prepare for the McRib with a shave — or even a facial mask — because anyone can participate, from your brother to your mother, sister-in-law or cousin’s roommate," McDonald's said in the release Monday. To enter, "post a picture of your cleanly-shaven or baby-smooth face on your public Twitter or public Instagram profile using #Shave4McRibSweepstakes and tag @mcdonalds," the release said.

After cutting back on its menu during the COVID-19 crisis, including sidelining all-day breakfast, McDonald's has started to make some menu additions in recent weeks. 

Last month, the brand rolled out a new McCafé Bakery lineup, which features an apple fritter, blueberry muffin and cinnamon roll. Of course, there was also the massively successful, celebrity-branded Travis Scott and J Balvin Meals.

Both the musician-themed promotions and the new menu items are creating tangible results at a time when foot traffic has been curtailed due to the pandemic. During Q2, McDonald's sales dropped 30%, although sales in the U.S. had begun to regain momentum by the end of the quarter in July.

The chain's drive-thru, digital and delivery businesses have been bright spots throughout 2020. These viral campaigns centered around nostalgic menu items — which are promoted heavily on social media — are giving the chain a way to target young, digitally savvy consumers known to have a penchant for delivery, while also tapping into the older demographic who may remember the items fondly. 

Plus, added incentives connected to the social media campaigns also encourage consumers to use the company's McDelivery app, which boosts loyalty. 

“Our bearded fans know… facial hair and the McRib just don’t mix – believe me, I’ve tried,” David Tovar, McDonald's vice president of U.S. Communications, said in the statement. “With the nationwide return of the McRib, we’re helping fans enjoy every delectable moment by encouraging them to shave for a chance to win a free McRib."

The release also said that McDonald's is working with No-Shave November, a non-profit organization that raises funds for cancer research, prevention and education. 

All McRibs purchased on Wednesday "will help support our donation to the charity’s cancer initiatives," according to the release. 

The charitable angle may be an attempt to boost McDonald’s image after a rough year amid reports of discrimination by franchisees and the former CEO’s sexual misconduct lawsuits.

Regardless of the chain’s intent behind the new promotion, for fans of the iconic McRib who have been waiting nearly a decade for the return of the menu item, the announcement is a rare bright spot in a bleak year.