McDonald's officially brought back the infamous Szechuan sauce today, but even as the fast food chain makes the condiment available for a limited time, people haven't quite forgotten about the riots over the sauce back in October. Now, McDonald's is addressing those riots and the entire Szechuan sauce fiasco in a new podcast.
McDonald's launched a three-part podcast in partnership with Studios@Gizmodo and Onion Labs called "The Sauce" last week detailing what McDonald's "We Want the Sauce" website calls the "stranger-than-fiction saga of Szechuan Sauce." In the podcast host Catherine LeClair investigates the saga of last fall's extremely limited release of Szechuan Sauce, the inspiration behind it, the riots at the lack of supply, and how McDonald's responded to the public relations nightmare that followed. You can check out the video trailer for the podcast above.
For those who missed the drama the first time around, here's a brief history. Back in 1998 as part of a promotion for Disney's Mulan, McDonald's released an Asian-inspired dipping sauce for Chicken McNuggets -- Szechuan Sauce. It was a popular dipping sauce, but quickly dropped off the menu and customer's radar when the promotion ended. The sauce remained nothing more than a footnote in McDonald's condiment history until the third season premiere of Rick and Morty in 2017.
"I first learned about it on April 1st when a tv show decided to name drop it," Chef Michael Haracz, Manager of Culinary Innovation at McDonald's said on The Sauce. "There was a little call out to this special sauce and my phone exploded."
That "little call out" Haracz is referring to is the episode "The Rickshank Rickdemption" and Szechuan Sauce ends up being surprisingly integral to plot. In the episode Rick is interrogated by a member of the Galactic Federation who wants to know what the secret to Rick's portal gun is. The gun, you see, allows him to travel across dimensions at will. Rick then makes up a story to con the Federation, during which he and the interrogator go to McDonald's to try the limited-edition Szechuan sauce. At episode's end, Rick reveals to Morty that the point of the trip was simply to taste the limited-edition sauce once more. The joke, which was inspired by Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland's obsession with the sauce, initially resulted in McDonald's sending Roiland a large jug of the stuff. But last fall McDonald's went one step further and put out an extremely limited amount of the sauce in special packaging designed to resemble the artistic look and feel of Rick and Morty along with posters also inspired by the show.
Unfortunately, McDonald's dramatically underestimated the excitement the show had stirred for the sauce and when fans discovered that not only were there extremely limited quantities of the now-infamous sauce, but that only very selected locations would have that "Mulan McNuggets sauce," riots ensued. The sauce's limited release was such a disaster that it even made the morning news in Japan and McDonald's Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations Jano Cabrera said that even if they simply hadn't seen it coming.
"Nobody could have guessed that people were going to drive hundreds of miles to a location that some people were going to camp overnight," Cabrera said. No one, no one expected this reaction. So, we could have done more but even then, it simply would not have been enough."
McDonald's responded the next day that they would make things right with fans and would release the sauce again, this time at all restaurants and in much larger quantities.2comments
"Szechuan Sauce is coming back once again this winter," McDonalds wrote in a statement last October. "And instead of being one-day-only and limited to select restaurants, we're bringing back more -- a lot more -- so that any fan who's willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan Sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald's."
As for the promised release, Szechuan Sauce became available at McDonald's nationwide today, and while there have been some reports of employees not being aware of the promotion and a few high-volume locations already being out, things appear to be going much more smoothly.