The Untold Truth Of The McSkillet

Few things inspire as much online chatter as a discontinued fast food item. The McSkillet, a burrito sold relatively by McDonald's in the early 2010s, is one of those fondly remembered, much-discussed lost menu items of yore. Never enjoying more than a small but devoted cult following — probably why McDonald's decided to stop offering it in the first place — fans of the breakfast menu specialty item frequently digitally pine for the entree, saddened and frustrated that they're unable to satisfy their craving this many years later. 

They fill online petitions asking, if not demanding, to return the item to its lofty position on the immensely popular breakfast menu. These requests seemingly don't attract much attention from McDonald's corporate headquarters or its menu development staff, because the McSkillet never has made a comeback, not unlike so many other fast food favorites. Nor has it made a seasonal, occasional return like the McRib. Let's add to the groundswell of support and help further romanticize the myth, the legend, and the glory that was the McDonald's McSkillet burrito-like breakfast food.

The McSkillet wasn't really new

Upon its introduction to McDonald's restaurants in November 2007, the McSkillet was an anomaly amongst the lineup of McMuffins, McGriddles, and biscuit sandwiches, a Mexican-inspired burrito-type wrap that more closely resembled the monster burritos of lunch-and-dinner-only chain Chipotle. It consisted of a large tortilla wrapped around a substantial pile of breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes, peppers, onions, and salsa. 

While the idea of a big burrito on the McDonald's breakfast menu was a novelty, burritos on offer at Mickey D's first thing in the morning were business as usual. At the time, McDonald's had long been selling a Sausage Burrito on its Dollar Menu, according to Food News. And, as of 2021, that more modest option is still a part of the official McDonald's menu. It's a small tortilla filled with eggs, sausage, American cheese, chiles, and onion — it's really quite a bit like the heavily missed McSkillet Burrito, just smaller. The McSkillet Burrito sits among McDonald's numerous failed attempts to introduce Mexican-inspired cuisine. In the '90s, for example, it marketed a breakfast burrito and chicken fajitas, and in the 2010s, McDonald's test-marketed a chorizo-stuffed breakfast burrito.

McDonald's thoroughly promoted the McSkillet

It can't be said that McDonald's didn't at least try to get the public interested in its McSkillet Burrito. The chain aggressively promoted the large breakfast burrito in several ways, particularly with an expensive, high-profile event stretching across two days at some of its busiest and most visible outlets. According to QSRWeb, McDonald's held a two-day "sampling event" in February 2008, in which customers nationwide could taste a McSkillet Burrito for a very low price point — the entree came free with the purchase of a medium or large soft drink or coffee. 

Meanwhile, at McDonald's locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the restaurant company got celebrities involved. On one day of the promotion, Spanish-language banda singer Yolanda Pérez did a meet-and-greet with customers at a Los Angeles McDonald's, a major San Francisco radio station did a live remote broadcast of its morning show from a McSkillet-bearing McDonald's, and R&B superstar Ciara actually worked part of a shift at a McDonald's in downtown Chicago, handing out "Goodies" like McSkillet Burritos to customers. According to Chief Marketer, McDonald's was prepared to give away about a million McSkillet Burritos during the two-day celebration.

The McSkillet was part of a far-reaching fast food experiment

In the mid-2000s, fast food chains gave "healthy" fare a shot. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Burger King introduced a line of low-fat chicken sandwiches and McDonald's "Go Active!" adult Happy Meal that included a salad, bottled water, and pedometer. Most of those new products flopped, and according to Newsweek, fast food places went all-in on gigantic, fat-laden menu items after research found that the most frequent quick-serve customers were young men who wanted big, delicious treats and didn't care about calorie counts.

Almost every fast food chain then seemed to be in competition as to who could release the biggest burgers and most massive breakfasts. The McDonald's McSkillet Burrito, with its 610 calories — twice the amount that can be found in a standard Egg McMuffin — was a part of this fast food fad. According to Entrepreneur, the McSkillet was McDonald's entry in a breakfast business war that also saw combatants like Carl's Jr.'s 830-calorie Breakfast Burger, Hardee's 900 calorie Country Breakfast Burrito, and Burger King's 730-calorie Enormous Omelet Sandwich. While these menu items generated a lot of press and attention, they didn't enjoy lasting success, and nearly all of them were ultimately discontinued, including the McSkillet Burrito.

The McSkillet was a central piece of a McDonald's marketing push

The McSkillet Burrito was McDonald's carefully crafted response in food form to mid-2000s market research that said its customers wanted bigger, bolder breakfast options. It served as a second purpose, though, as an attempt to cater to what the company thought was an underserved market — or at least a demographic that wasn't well-represented in McDonald's customer base at that point. When McDonald's launched the McSkillet Burrito, an item inspired by Mexican-American cuisine and including traditional Mexican ingredients like salsa and a tortilla, its marketing campaign specifically targeted Latino news outlets, releasing a statement about its first new nationally-released breakfast item in five years on Hispanic PR Newswire. According to Nation's Restaurant News, McDonald's ran Spanish-language TV ads in several major markets, and chief marketing officer Bill Lamar said that the McSkillet "has particular appeal for our Hispanic customers."

Around the same time, according to QSR Magazine, McDonald's teamed up with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to sponsor and fund educational opportunities for Hispanic high school students — a charitable move, but one the company leveraged to increase its visibility among people with a Central or South American racial background.

Why did McDonald's get rid of the McSkillet?

Despite the hard and aggressive sell, and the fact that it was the first major addition to its breakfast menu in years — and a nice alternative to the eggs-on-fluffy-bread approach that dominated its morning offerings — McDonald's couldn't get the McSkillet Burrito to work. The entree wasn't only the biggest thing on the breakfast menu — it weighed half a pound, according to Brand Eating — but it was also among the most expensive. According to The Impulsive Buy, it cost $2.49 in most markets, but as much as $3.29 in others. Perhaps the relatively high price point turned off McDonald's customers used to familiar foods for rock-bottom prices.

The McSkillet Burrito also had to contend with other outlets offering more assured Mexican-style breakfast foods. Breakfast burritos made and sold by small and independent restaurants have been part of the American food scene for decades, and McDonald's likely had a hard time making inroads into that sector, where the food was just as inexpensive and just as portable. But no matter the reason, McDonald's quietly started to discontinue the McSkillet Burrito in the summer of 2010, according to Chowhound.