Here come the doughnuts. Or, at least, the donut sticks. McDonald's will bring six- and 12-stick versions of fried dough rectangles, covered in cinnamon sugar, to its breakfast menu come Feb. 20. Price will be $1.29 for 6 or $2.39 a dozen. (With a hat tip to Business Insider, which sussed this out in early January.)

McDonald's in the fast food, not religion, business. But the company does seem to depend more frequently on Hail Marys. A little over a year ago, it tried bringing back its dollar menu--sorry, now the $1 $2 $3 menu--to get more people back to the chain.

Now it's a version of a treat that Dunkin' Donuts began to serve in 2017. Dunkin' said in an earnings call that the snack was "one of the best-performing limited-time offer bakery items in recent brand history." Though between "one of" and "in recent brand history," that's a lot of wiggle room.

Not that the concept even originated with Dunkin'. These are basically crullers, which go a long way back. Or churros, as Boston.com did. Shrinking the size and offering multi-packs as a single serving was a different twist, but even that didn't start with McDonald's or Dunkin', as a little web search turns up references and recipes from years before.

I still think that McDonald's has stifled innovation of its franchisees, who were the ones to invent the Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, and Egg McMuffin. None of that was the product of some central kitchen and executives who carefully considered what people would want.

One of the best ways to innovate is to crank out ideas and test them. That's what franchisees can do. Let them try different things with their local markets. See what works. Give a bonus or reward or maybe even a royalty for items that prove themselves on a national or international stage. McDonald's could have so many potential hits being developed.

But these days, that's not what many big franchises seem to want. They're interested in control. In fact, they're so determined to be in charge that they've been willing to see many customers walk elsewhere.

Such is life. It does provide great opportunities for the company's competitors, and even all the small restaurant operators out there who can try out what they'd like. A bit part of the fun of business is coming up with your own ideas and seeing what you can do with them.

Published on: Feb 11, 2019