Restaurant chains get serious about fries

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The question heard at restaurants for decades — “You want fries with that?” — may conjure up an image of an overlooked side dish consumers end up ordering by default, but chains from McDonald’s and Wendy’s to Bob Evans are not taking French fries or other sides for granted.

McDonald’s is making a bigger deal of its French fries by removing the question mark from the age-old question heard at its cash registers.

Through the end of the year, McDonald’s is running its “You Want McDonald’s Fries With That” promotion on a special microsite, To enter the contest for a $25,000 grand prize, players need to share in 60 or fewer characters what they want to accompany their order of fries, as well as why they deserve to win, using 400 characters or fewer.

Customers also may enter a weekly drawing for a $50 Arch Card at the microsite, and 40 winners will be selected between now and Feb. 12, 2012.

Georgina Roy, McDonald’s director of customer engagement and alliances, said in a statement that the brand wanted to promote how its fries “make the best occasions even better.”

“McDonald’s ‘You Want McDonald’s Fries With That’ promotion celebrates how great moments in our lives are made better with a side of McDonald’s fries,” she said. “We’re excited to see our customers’ creative contest entries and look forward to awarding people with prizes for their participation.”

The chain of more than 14,000 restaurants in the United States also launched a new ad to tout its side dish as the “best fries on the planet.”

Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of WD Partners, said McDonald’s marketing of its fries as the best is more about protecting the chain’s status as the seller of the most French fry orders in quick service.

“When you start to promote a product line like fries, in many cases it’s to ensure you keep market share or build share,” Lombardi said. “McDonald’s fries are iconic and one of their signature products. It usually isn’t necessary to advertise them, but reinforcing them every once in a while makes sense.”

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