The McRib Locator continues to live on after the sandwich's farewell tour
The McDonald's McRib's last seasonal appearance in 2022 was said to be its last. McDonald's marketed last fall's release as its "farewell tour," encouraging customers to get it before it was gone forever. Despite this, Alan Klein, creator of the McRib Locator, will continue to keep up his self-made website that reports and tracks McRib sightings. "I'm helping a larger community," Klein says. "It's fellow fans like myself, and that really is what keeps me driven to keep doing it."
Since McDonald's introduced the McRib in 1981, an avid fan base has developed around the sandwich -- and dealt with its inconsistent availability ever since. Despite its popularity, McDonald's has removed the McRib from its menu numerous times over the past 40 years, frustrating the McRib enthusiasts who clamor for it.
In 2009, Klein decided to take matters into his own hands and create the McRib Locator, a website where anyone can report when they see the McRib available at a McDonald's and share where it was spotted. The Vergecast talked with Klein about the project and what inspired him to spin it up all on his own.
"I was looking to make a product that was something to help find storm chasers," Klein explains. "And while I was at work one day, the McRib was back somewhere nearby, and it turned out there were a few other avid fans at my workplace, and we talked about how, 'Boy, it's been a really long time since I've been able to get one, and it's always such a pain to find it.' So this idea sparked, well, instead of a storm locator, why couldn't it just be a McRib locator?"
The McRib Locator had about 200,000 unique users in October 2022
The McRib Locator caught a lot of attention a few months after its release, with people around the world eventually joining in to report McRib locations. The website was popular enough that, in 2016, McDonald's developed its own "McRib Finder" app, which was almost identical to what Klein was doing but using McDonald's slow-updating store data. Klein's McRib Locator has outlasted McDonald's official version, which didn't last much longer than the McRib did on the menu that year. The website continues to be used by a large number of people -- when the McRib returned in October 2022, Klein's locator received about 200,000 unique users.
Klein is skeptical of the McRib's official "retired" status. "We've done this before," he says. "This isn't new for McRib fans. That's sort of part of the allure for some, right? Will it or won't it be back. Every year McDonald's reports how much revenues they've had in the quarters, and we've seen whenever the McRib has been back, those quarters seem to do better for them. So it's an interesting idea [that] it's retired in the United States." He also reminds us that the McRib is still available in Germany year-round.
For now, Klein will be monitoring the website for any misinformation and maintaining the page by himself. If you or someone you know spots a McDonald's McRib in the wild, you can still report it here at mcriblocator.com.
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Hear more about why Klein spent so much of his free time making the website, what he does with all the McRib location data, and the future of his work on The Vergecast today. This episode is the second in a five-part series we're calling Solo Acts. Each episode focuses on someone going it (largely) alone to create something really cool on the internet. Episodes will air on Mondays, in addition to our usual Wednesday and Friday shows.