McDonald's Responds to Taco Bell's Breakfast Broadside

Announces free coffee event; takes to social media to try to diffuse campaign

McDonald's Taco Bell Ronald McDonald Chihuahua

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- The day after Taco Bell debuted its new breakfast menu nationally, McDonald's announced that it is holding its first free coffee event. Participating restaurants will offer consumers a free small McCafe coffee during breakfast hours starting March 31 and going through April 13.

"We take a lot of pride in our breakfast offerings, and our McCafe coffee is a great complement to our breakfast lineup. That's why we're excited to share it with our guests, on us," said Greg Watson, senior vice president for McDonald's US Menu Innovation. "This event is McDonald's way of encouraging new guests to try McCafe Coffee while giving our breakfast lovers even more reason to enjoy the great taste of our signature blend."

To kick off the two-week campaign, McDonald's will host "Make Friends with McCafe" sampling events at high traffic locations and transportation hubs in multiple cities across the country. The events will provide busy commuters with free McCafe coffee and a few surprises along the way, such as live musical performances, spontaneous comedy experiences and more.

"McCafe enthusiasts can count on us surprising them in unexpected ways all year long," said Watson. "We know our guests are busy, and we hope McCafe can provide them with a taste they'll enjoy at the moment when they need a pick-me-up to keep going with their day."

The announcement did not directly reference Taco Bell, which has lined up a group of people named "Ronald McDonald" to endorse the morning menu; however, McDonald's did post a picture on Facebook of a giant, authentic Ronald McDonald crouching down to pet a tiny Chihuahua, with the caption "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Starting in mid-April, McCafe will also surprise an @McCafe Twitter follower every day this year with McCafe coffee and prizes using the hashtag #McCafe.

McDonald's launched its McCafe lineup in the United States in 2009. The collection included McCafe's signature blend coffee and quickly expanded to include iced coffees, espresso-based drinks, such as lattes and mochas, blended-ice beverages including smoothies and frappes, triple thick shakes as well as limited-time seasonal offerings.

Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell Corp., a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., Louisville, Ky., has nearly 6,000 restaurants across the United States.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's has more than 14,100 locations in the United States.