McDonald's announced Monday that the boneless barbecue pork sandwich, usually available in only a few stores at a time, will be sold at all U.S. locations through Nov. 14.
Most of the time, it's up to local franchises to determine when and if they want to sell the McRib — except in Germany, the only place where it's always available.
McDonald's said the response was so great last November when it made the McRib available nationally for about three weeks that it decided to bring it back nationwide this year. The company, which previously hadn't sold the McRib nationally since 1994, declined to give sales numbers.
The sandwich, which is dressed with onions, pickle slices and barbecue sauce, was introduced nationally in 1982. With 500 calories and 26 grams of fat, it's slightly trimmer than the Big Mac, which has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. And just like the Big Mac, the McRib has become a popular McDonald's offering.
There are Facebook groups such as "Bring Back the McRib!!!" There are Twitter tags, where posts range from "Lucky me, the McRib is back" to "If you eat McRibs, you need to re-evaluate what it is you actually want in life."
Last year, the guy who won McDonald's $1 million Monopoly grand prize was ordering — you guessed it — a McRib. Earlier this month, former Playmate Jenny McCarthy contacted the McRib Locator website for help finding a McRib in southern California: She found one in Fountain Valley.
The website's creator, Alan Klein, said he suspected something was up when traffic exploded from about 150 hits a day to about 4,000 in the past week or so, as more fans reported sightings. People are sending him photos of their McRib variations: the McRib with lettuce and tomato, the McRib with bacon, three McRibs stacked on top of each other.
Klein, a meteorologist in the Minneapolis area, runs the website in his spare time with help from his wife, Kimberly. He created the Locator in 2008 because he wanted to learn how to use the Google Maps program for work, and because he had fond memories of eating the pork sandwich while growing up on a hog farm.
"We've been spoiled this year and last year with it being around nationwide," he said. "But I hope it stays elusive, because otherwise nobody will come to our website."
If the McRib is so popular, why not just offer it all the time? McDonald's likes to stoke the enthusiasm with an aura of transience.
"Bringing it back every so often adds to the excitement," said Marta Fearon, McDonald's U.S. marketing director, who said she's not sure if the McRib will reappear every fall.
And how can it be called a McRib if it doesn't have any bones? Said Fearon: "That gives it this quirky sense of humor."