(USATODAY.com) - Even the iconic McDonald's french fry, a linchpin to the fast-food giant's multibillion-dollar success, is getting a second look as the company seeks new product hits.
On Thursday, the same day McDonald's announced that domestic sales were flat in April, the company confirmed to USA TODAY that it will begin testing seasoned fries -- dubbed Shakin' Flavor Fries -- on Friday in the Northern California and St. Louis markets.
The seasonings: Garlic Parmesan, Zesty Ranch and Spicy Buffalo. But here's the rub: You don't buy the fries pre-seasoned. Instead, they come with special packets of seasoning that consumers are advised to open, pour and shake into a specially made mixing bag. Imprinted on the bags: "Seasoned fries. Shake your taste buds."
The concept, which debuted in some of its Hong Kong restaurants nearly a decade ago, where it's known as "Shake Shake," has since spread to many McDonald's locations in China, India and Australia, says spokeswoman Lisa McComb.
"As with all tests, we aren't in a position to draw conclusions or make assumptions about the test, since it is just beginning," McComb says.
To fast-food junkies, the past several years must seem like a sort of french fry frenzy. Last October, Burger King rocked the fast-food world by rolling out Satisfries — lower-calorie, lower-fat crinkle-cut fries — as an option. A few years earlier, Wendy's added a twist by rolling out natural-cut french fries — with the skin still on — sprinkled with sea salt.
Now, about two weeks before its annual shareholders meeting, McDonald's is testing a new fry offering. Back in 2008, McDonald's made waves when it was among the first to remove trans-fat from all of its french fries in the U.S.
If you think you've seen shake-able seasoned fries before, well, you probably have. Rival Burger King promoted a similarly dubbed "Shake'em up Fries" more than a decade ago. They didn't last long. And over the past few years, several smaller french fry specialty chains have begun to offer a variety of specialty seasonings, dipping sauces and toppings.
But, for perhaps the wackiest french fries, you may want to go to France. The famous Le Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower has been known to serve french fries shaped like — your guessed it — the Eiffel Tower.