“Rick and Morty” fans—along with Chicken McNugget lovers—will soon have reason to rejoice: Szechuan Sauce is back.
McDonald’s first brought the condiment back in October 2017—a PR stunt that was inspired by the cartoon “Rick and Morty” on Adult Swim:
However, the promotion was too limited. Some stores only received 20 packets or less of the sauce, which paled in comparison to the demand (fans drove hundreds of miles and waited in line for hours). McDonald’s soon found itself issuing apologies and facing both riots in its restaurants and widespread criticism online.
McDonald’s head chef Mike Haracz tweeted on Oct. 8 that the company was going to do what it could to rectify the situation, pledging to “make it right” to disappointed fans. People drove in from Canada and to different states, waiting for hours to try and get the sauce last October.
Following the uproar, “Rick and Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland, tweeted:
FYI: We had nothing to do with this McDonald’s stuff. Not happy w/how this was handled. Please be cool to the employees it’s not their fault
— Justin Roiland (@JustinRoiland) October 8, 2017
McDonald’s announcements this week are proof that the company is making good on its promise:
We heard you and have been working tirelessly to bring back The Sauce. On 2/22, we announce when/where Szechuan Sauce will return, but also answer the burning question: “What happened to The Sauce?!” To find out, visit https://t.co/Gcrq5kM71E or download the podcast series. pic.twitter.com/ezHbAqL82i
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) February 20, 2018
Szechuan Sauce returns 2/26! 20 MILLION CUPS spread across all US McD’s!
🎧 to Ep 1! https://t.co/Er2nfTYI4q
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) February 22, 2018
On its promotional site wewantthesauce.com, McDonald’s wrote:
Last October, we truly meant well when we brought back a super-limited batch of Szechuan Sauce, but it quickly became apparent we did not make enough to meet the expectations of our fans. We did not anticipate the overnight crowds, the cross-state travel and the amazing curiosity, passion and energy fans showed. Our super-limited batch, though well-intentioned, clearly wasn’t near enough to meet that demand. We disappointed fans and we are sorry. To fully make amends, we felt it was important to not only bring back much more sauce this time, but to also admit our mistakes, answer questions and give fans access to the story behind the story.
We’ve worked every day since October to bring back much, much, more of the sauce our fans have been craving. And we’re excited to announce that starting Monday, February 26, 20 million packets of Szechuan Sauce will be available across all US McDonald’s restaurants with a qualifying purchase, while supplies last (which this time around, we hope is a while).
McDonald’s employees are also posting proof that the sauce exists on Reddit and Twitter:
— Quackery Robust (@QuackeryRobust) February 22, 2018
Along with bringing back the condiment, McDonald’s partnered with Studio@Gizmodo and Onion Labs to produce “The Sauce,” a three-part podcast that explains the motivation behind the PR move, how it quickly went south and what the company is doing to respond to the demand.
“The Sauce” mimics the sounds and tone of This American Life’s popular podcast “Serial,” and addresses the pop culture phenomenon and the resulting PR crisis in a light-hearted manner:
“This podcast is all about what happens when the best of intentions go wrong,” host Catherine LeClair says in the first episode.
The content marketing effort touches upon what happens when brand managers jump on a PR and marketing opportunity without fully understanding the power behind the popular show, meme or trend.
This sauce was originally released to promote the Disney movieMulan way back in 1998 — and it was pretty much forgotten until Rick and Morty referenced it. So, basically, it was all a bit that some fans took way, way too far. McDonald’s tried to get in the fun, ended up stoking the wrath of its fans, and now must pay the blood sacrifice: bring back the sauce yet again.
The strange world of branded podcasts aside, some Rick and Morty superfans are flipping out at the chance to finally taste a culinary product their hero called his “one-armed man,” with folks who have actually tried the sauce dominating the show’s subreddit. Already, a picture of an open packet and a box of chicken tenders has garnered almost 1,000 comments.
Although Szechuan sauce was just a throwaway joke for Rick and Morty’s third season, it became a phenomenon for McDonald’s. It’s almost impossible to laugh at, Harmon told Polygon last October, because of how surreal it is.