McDonald's Runs Out of Szechuan Sauce, Outraging Eaters

Give the people what they want: teriyaki sugar sauce.

By Ethan L. Johns
October 09, 2017

Image: McDonald’s

What happens when a massive multinational restaurant brand with over 14,000 US outlets hypes a product, and then fails to actually deliver it to its customers? The Great Saturday Sauce Shortage of 2017, that’s what happens.

On October 7th, McDonald’s launched its new Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders, while at the same time offering a very limited run of something that it calls Szechuan Sauce. The comeback of Szechuan Sauce (originally produced for a limited time in conjunction with the release of Disney’s Mulan in 1998) was hyped up over the past weeks after it was reproduced in response to an episode of the animated series Rick and Morty. Unfortunately for fans, the amount of excitement that had built up around the product release was wildly out of sync with the short supply.

When fans showed up at their local McDonald’s locations on Saturday, they quickly realized that, according to Business Insider, there were only about 20 to 40 packets of the sauce to be had. Reactions varied. Some reported peaceful dispersals after employees announced that there was no more sauce. Others painted pictures of unhappy customers who became boisterous up to the point that law enforcement had to be called.

The tactic of exclusivity works for some brands, most notably the ones that require customers to regularly pay obscene amounts of money for their limited supply of product. Yet for a popular brand like McDonald’s, which is built on exactly the opposite premise, a play courting exclusivity is doomed to fail. By artificially deflating the supply of their chicken nugget dipping sauce, the brand took a light-spirited marketing play and turned it into the darkest form of class capitalism, where some get to partake in the spoils and the rest—including hopeful children—go home hungry. The sauce can now be found on eBay for asking prices of up to $20,000 for 0.9 ounces.

On Sunday, McDonald’s tweeted an almost-apology (“Not cool”), concluding the saga by promising a re-release of the sauce in the winter, “so that any fan who’s willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan Sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby mcDonald’s.”

If you’ve been following the development of this story, you might remember that one Canadian DJ named Joel Zimmerman (better known by his stage name, Deadmau5), spent somewhere in the ballpark of $15,000 for a 64-ounce bottle of the sauce back in August. On Sunday night, following the Great Saturday Sauce Shortage of 2017, Deadmau5 took the stage in Toronto with his jug and a few boxes filled with 1,000 nuggets. “Do you guys want to have a [...] nugget party?” he asked, before giving it all away to the crowd.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns