McDonald's has now entered part 3!
Hey. . . Mock them we must, but at least give them credit for trying to create a new menu item that is not simply (1) an existing menu item thrown into the deep fryer or (2) two or more existing menu items piled on top of each another (the two most popular innovation techniques at fast food places worldwide).
Ratatouille (even faux ratatouille), smoked beef, mugwort spring roll (cho-kawaii!) - could you imagine that level of experimentation at U.S. McDonald's? O.K. the sausage katsu thing and the omelette salad thing do fit into to the deep-fried / piled-up paradigms, but still. . .
McDonald's Japan, after decades of extraordinary growth, has gone through a long difficult patch in the past several years. It responded to the post-bubble economy through the discount "set" strategy, which worked for a while. Then mad cow disease came along, and the response was to first cut prices lower even on single menu items, then increase prices again in anticipation of an end to deflation, then cut them again when this failed to materialize. Even with beef consumption picking up again Makudonarudo (which reminds me - have you played the game where you try to find the Japanese "gairai" katakana word that has the most syllables relative to the foreign word from which it was adapted? No? O.K. forget it) remains in the doldrums. Beyond external shocks, the main problem, as in the U.S., seems to be that people have finally gotten bored of the product and enjoy an expanded range of alternatives.
Fujita Den, the Japan operation's founder and a former biz-school case study superhero, was forced to resign as Chairman/CEO few months ago, along with his son Gen (and their pet mice Ben and Zen), due to the failure of these tactics. So now the new management is trying something different. More power to them, as the saying goes.