Forget McDonald’s: Walmart makes a bold fast-food move

For decades Walmart and McDonald’s had a deep association, with the fast-chain having locations in many of the retailer’s stores. It was a logical match as the two companies serve the same clientele.

The logic extended to both brands having similar philosophies. Walmart (WMT) – Get Free Report sells its customers familiar products at strong-value prices. McDonald’s has pushed value as well and while few people think it has the best fast-food burgers, or food in general, the chain offers comfort food that customers love.

Related: Amazon closes a business designed to take on Kroger, Walmart

The two companies just made sense together. McDonald’s’ pairing with Walmart fit the same way locating Starbucks cafes inside Target stores makes sense.

Having a Starbucks in your store sends a different message than offering a McDonald’s. But both situations are two like-minded companies partnering to reach their target audiences while reinforcing their brands. 

Walmart, however, has worked in recent years to move away from McDonald’s. Many of its stores have moved to new fast-food partners, with the 3,500-store chain now having about 150 McDonald’s locations, down from a peak of more than 1,000.

The retailer has not abandoned fast food. It has added Taco Bell  (YUM) – Get Free Report and Domino’s  (DPZ) – Get Free Report locations to some stores, but it has also gotten more creative in some markets. 

Its newest partnership has the chain jumping on a growing trend that makes a lifestyle statement. It feels like a move Target might have made.

McDonald’s has closed many of its Walmart locations.

Image source: Shutterstock

Walmart adds a healthy fast-food partner

Walmart generally does not get associated with healthy food. It’s not that the chain does not offer healthy items on its shelves, but in a broad sense its store-within-a-store restaurants have leaned into traditional fast food.

Its latest partnership, however, jumps on a healthy-food trend. 

“Uncle Sharkii is partnering up with Walmart, and we’re getting ready to bring poke to the masses!#Unclesharkii #PokeBar #Walmart #ComingSoon,” the retailer’s new partner shared on X, the former Twitter.

A poke bowl restaurant, Uncle Sharkii has expanded quickly, establishing locations in California, Hawaii, Texas and Utah and planning to expand into Arizona and Nevada. Its first Walmart locations will be in California.

Poke bowls, a growing trend, are bowls of rice topped with sushi-style fish and vegetables. It’s a healthy take on fast food built around fresh ingredients with customers being able to customize their orders.

Walmart needs to make people leave their cars

Both Walmart and Target have expanded their curbside-pickup programs. Those programs enable customers to order online and pick up at the store without leaving their cars. That’s convenient but it cuts down on impulse buys.

When a person enters a store, they might see something they didn’t know they needed. Many of these items, like candy bars in the cash-register line, are very high-margin items that add to the chain’s profitability.

It’s a fine line Walmart has been walking, given that it does want customers to take advantage of its omnichannel services. Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey addressed the matter during the chain’s third-quarter-earnings call.

“Omni services, including pickup and store-fulfilled delivery, continue to drive strong growth, leading to a 24% increase in Walmart U.S. e-commerce sales and 16% growth at Sam’s Club,” he said.

Walmart wants customers to use all the services it offers because that encourages more visits.

“Multichannel shoppers are more valuable, engaging more often and spending more with us,” he added. “Pickup and delivery for Walmart U.S. has been a key source of growth and share gains among upper-income households and has become the most productive channel for acquiring Walmart+ members.” 

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