McDonald's takes Georgie Pie nationwide

Last updated 14:58 01/10/2013

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McDonald's has a "long-term commitment" to keep Georgie Pie on its menu, which will include offering more flavours and in more restaurants.

The global fast-food giant confirmed that after a successful trial in 19 restaurants, Georgie Pie, will be available in two-thirds of its restaurants nationwide by Christmas.

The iconic steak mince 'n' cheese pie will be sold in 107 McDonald's restaurants by the end of the year and the majority of restaurants by mid-2014.

McDonald's New Zealand managing director Patrick Wilson said the company is committed to retaining the brand. More flavours will be released in 2014 after the company consulted with customers in regards to other Georgie Pie favourites and new flavours.

The new range was in the product-development stage. Wilson would not confirm the specific flavours.

A company spokesman said McDonald's had surveyed fans over Facebook to which old Georgie Pie flavours should be brought back. The options included pork and vegetable, chicken and vegetable and seafood.

While Wilson said the customer response to Georgie Pie had been fantastic, he wouldn't say how many pies had been sold during the initial rollout. Sales had exceeded initial projections by 50 per cent.

"When we began the trial to bring back Georgie Pie in May we said we'd look at options for a nationwide rollout depending on how it was received. It's been a hugely complex project and it's very exciting now go full steam ahead," Wilson said.

After the launch in selected Auckland and Hamilton restaurants, the company trialled in the "very different provincial market", through restaurants in Manawatu.

From October 21, eight restaurants in Wellington, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and the Bay of Plenty will be used to train staff and test distribution of the product.

From then, McDonald's will begin to distribute the ovens required for baking the pies while Goodman Fielder, which operates the former Georgie Pie plant in South Auckland, will increase production hours to accommodate the expected increase in demand.

McDonald's chains in Marlborough, the West Coast and Dunedin should have the Georgie Pie on offer before Christmas, but Christchurch fans will have to wait until the new year to enjoy the Kiwi icon.

McDonald's bought 17 Georgie Pie stores and its trade marks and intellectual property in 1996, turning them into McDonald's outlets, after the pie chain ran into trouble following an "aggressive expansion and a $20 million factory at Wiri, in South Auckland," the spokesman said.

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"So we started off with a relatively soft launch by comparison. We had to asses whether customers were willing to enter a McDonald's restaurant and order a Georgie Pie, we also had to invest in capital equipment and reconfigure kitchens in each restaurant, so it's been slow and steady," he said.

The company hired former Georgie Pie general manager Brian Popham as a research and development consultant, to ensure McDonald's version of the pie stayed true to the original..

The steak mince 'n' cheese pie uses New Zealand beef and short pastry, formed in Georgie Pie's distinctive square shape. The only change to the original recipe was the removal of food additive monosodium glutamate.

However, McDonald's has not managed to match the Kiwi pie chain's famously low $1 pie offer, instead charging $4.50

"As it turns out, customers think it's a good pie and worth that increased cost."

The spokesman said the return of the calorie-laden Georgie Pie does not counter the fast-food restaurants recent push into healthier menu items, like wraps and salads.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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