McDonald's BTS meal
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
  • McDonald's launched the BTS meal with the Korean band at the end of May.
  • In its first week, it drove more traffic to stores than the Travis Scott meal.
  • Celebrity partnerships continue to be huge for fast food companies in 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

McDonald's BTS meal is bringing in the most customers the chain has seen all year after only a week, according to foot traffic reports from third-party researchers.

McDonald's partnered with the famous Korean boy band BTS on a signature promotion in 49 countries that launched on May 26 in the US. Restaurant visits were up 12% over the previous week during the first seven days of the promotion, a report from Gordon Haskett Research Advisors found. These numbers are the highest of 2021 so far.

McDonald's customers in the US can order a BTS meal: a 10-piece McNuggets, medium fries, a medium Coke, and sweet chili and Cajun sauces inspired by menu items in McDonald's South Korea.

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"We're excited to bring customers even closer to their beloved band in a way only McDonald's can – through our delicious food – when we introduce the BTS signature order on our menu next month," Morgan Flatley, the chief marketing officer of McDonald's US, said in a statement when the promotion was announced.

McDonald's has partnered with celebrities on signature order campaigns before to huge success. The Travis Scott meal last fall was so popular that some locations ran out of Quarter Pounder ingredients. It was also enriching for Scott personally, as he netted at least $20 million from the deal, according to Forbes. The BTS meal has the potential to be even more successful for McDonald's – it is outpacing the gains from the first week of the Travis Scott Meal, which bumped traffic 9% in the first week it was offered.

Collaborating with young artists and creators became huge for fast-food chains in 2020, and is continuing strong in 2021. The deals helped brands connect with Gen Z customers and often ended up on social media and as TikTok trends.

Like the two other celebrity collaborations, the BTS meal is made up of existing menu items to draw in customers (though the sauces are a new addition in the US), a move that analysts have praised. With a celebrity endorsement, brands can harness the energy and excitement of a new product without actually adding menu items.

The era of fast-food and celebrity partnerships isn't likely to end anytime soon. Brands continue to look for strategies to reach younger customers, and they've found something that works.

"They look to recommendations much more than any other generation has. They're very reliant on social media. They're very reliant on their friends," Flatley told Business Insider.

The BTS meal isn't yet available in every country McDonald's has planned. By June 25, residents of all 49 included countries will be able to try it out.

Despite the meal's success so far, it hasn't moved the needle as much as McDonald's chicken sandwich did. The crispy chicken sandwich launched in February bumped traffic 16% in the first week, according to Gordon Haskett. found that foot traffic increased more than 20% week-over-week in the days following the release, helping the chain get closer to pre-pandemic numbers.

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