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McDonald’s Japan offers new burger

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McDonald's Japan chief executive Eikoh Harada munches on a McGrand at a Tokyo restaurant.

McDonald’s Japan chief executive Eikoh Harada munches on a McGrand at a Tokyo restaurant.

Junji Kurokawa, Associated Press

TOKYO — McDonald's Japan, struggling to recover from a drop in sales and back-to-back annual losses following a mad cow scare, is promoting a bigger burger in an attempt to get Japanese consumers back in its restaurants.

The McGrand made its debut at an outlet in a posh shopping complex in central Tokyo, ahead of a nationwide launch on June 16 at 3,800 other stores. The McGrand is sold as a larger single beef patty or a double, with lettuce and cheese in specially developed chewy buns that the company said appealed to young women in taste tests.

"We are hoping that this hamburger would attract first-timers or others who haven't visited our stores for some time," McDonald's Japan CEO and President Eikoh Harada said.

Finding new customers has become imperative for the hamburger giant in Japan.

The discovery of Japan's first case of mad cow disease sent McDonald's sales skidding two years ago, and the company — which uses beef from Australia, where no cases of the sickness have been reported — has not yet fully recovered.

The company, 50 percent owned by the U.S. McDonald's, posted its first loss in 29 years in Japan in 2002. Another loss followed in 2003, with sales dropping 6.5 percent.

Despite a turnaround in earnings so far in 2004, sales still edged down 0.1 percent in the first-quarter of the year.