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Fast Food Places Have a Deal for You

Fast food's sales hook in 2010 will be just two words: Eat cheap.

Many big names in fast food are rolling out products geared to drag in slow-to-spend consumers. Today, McDonald's makes official plans to nationally roll out a Dollar Breakfast Menu in January. Burger King is trying to dazzle eaters with $1 double cheeseburgers.

The moves come at a time when fast-food giants - many of which initially benefited from the financial meltdown - are seeing sales erode. As a category, fast food has faced falling sales for 28 of the past 30 weeks, reports NPD. McDonald's on Tuesday reported its second consecutive monthly same-store sales dip in the U.S.

"It's a tough economic situation out there, and the fast-food pie has shrunk," says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a consulting firm. Because of high unemployment, he says, consumers are increasingly hitting grocery stores and "turning on their ovens again."

While value offerings are common in the slow winter season, the scope of the deals show the cold realities this winter:

McDonald's. Pushing value on two fronts, it's unwrapping its value breakfast two years after Burger King unveiled one. "Our customers are obviously feeling the need to make every dollar count," says Neil Golden, chief marketing officer. With fewer folks working, fewer eat breakfast out. Among items to be sold for $1: Sausage McMuffin, hash browns and 12-ounce coffee.

McDonald's also will roll out Mac Snack Wrap, which has Big Mac's ingredients rolled into a tortilla. At $1.49, it's half the price of a Big Mac.

Burger King. Since October, it has sold $1 double cheeseburgers, "the strongest value for the money in the marketplace," says new products chief John Schaufelberger. A franchisee group sued, saying owners lose money at that price.

Burger King is testing other $1 items. One is The Little Enormous Sandwich, made with egg, sausage, cheese, hash browns and bacon. There's a $1 chicken sandwich. And it's testing its BK Breakfast Muffin, which sells for $1 vs. $2.49 for an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's.

Taco Bell. In a down market, "Everyone plays value," says David Ovens, chief marketing officer. In two weeks, it rolls out an 89-cent Beefy 5-Layer Burrito. In February, it rolls out the Five Bucks Box with four food items and a medium drink. It has begun very limited tests of value breakfast deals with its 79-cent, 89-cent and 99-cent menus.

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