McDonald’s is giving away free Egg McMuffins just as Wendy’s launches breakfast

CNN Business looks at the most popular seasonal bites and why they’ve become fast food staples.

Wendy’s is finally entering the breakfast battle this week, so McDonald’s is trying to throw a knockout blow.

McDonald’s has deemed Monday “National Egg McMuffin Day” and it’s luring people in with free sandwiches. The chain also said in a press release that the day is intended to celebrate the “best” fast food breakfast sandwich as it is also turning 50 this year. But it’s likely not a coincidence that it is the same day Wendy’s takes its eagerly anticipated breakfast menu nationwide.

The offer is only valid Monday in US restaurants from 6 am to 10:30 am local time. To get the free sandwich, customers will have to order it through McDonald’s app. The company continues to push the app so it can offer personalized offers and promotions directly to customers, McDonald’s said in its most recent earnings call.

Increasing the McDonald’s app’s user base is “key,” according to Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy, because Monday’s promotion could result in building customer loyalty: Customers might be enticed to come back because of future offers.

Hottovy also that said offering free Egg McMuffins will keep the chain “top of mind” because Wendy’s is spending big — upwards of $80 million this year — to promote the new menu.

“It’s more of a defensive move rather than an offensive move,” he said about the promotion.

“National Egg McMuffin Day” is McDonald’s second breakfast promotion, which is a time of day when sales are growing for fast food chains. It already began offering two breakfast sandwiches for $4 for a limited time.

McDonald’s, which started serving breakfast all day in 2015, boasts that it is a leader in the category. “We win at breakfast,” Linda VanGosen, vice president of menu innovation at McDonald’s, previously told CNN Business. “We’re frequently innovating and adding new breakfast offerings.”

McDonald’s recently added two chicken breakfast sandwiches to national menus in an attempt to better compete with Popeye’s or Chick-fil-A and stop declining in traffic during the breakfast period.

Wendy’s also has a chicken biscuit sandwich on its new breakfast menu. That’s joining a larger selection consisting of nine sandwiches, including a morning version of its famed Baconator. Side dishes include potato wedges and a new blend of coffee.

The McDonald’s holiday “is the day that the Egg McMuffin and other old breakfasts are laid to rest. No longer will people have to suffer stale, tired, old sandwiches with folded eggs and microwaved bacon,” Carl Loredo, Wendy’s chief marketing officer, told CNN Business.

There are also other chains that are competing, including Taco Bell, Dunkin’ and Panera. The latter rolled out a $8.99 per month coffee subscription program last week.

Regardless of the growing competition, Hottovy thinks Wendy’s “will stick” this time after failing previously. “This is a case where Wendy’s being in the market will lift everybody,” he said.

–CNN Business’ Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this report.

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