MCVEGGIE MCVALUE

NEW YORK -- Sales of a McVeggie Burger, offered by more than a dozen McDonald's fast-food restaurants here, are holding up well, according to the first operator to launch the soy-based pattie.Jim Lewis, vice president of Lewis Foods, Riverside, Conn., who added the menu item to his four Greenwich Village units more than a year ago and then expanded it to a few restaurants farther uptown, said two

NEW YORK -- Sales of a McVeggie Burger, offered by more than a dozen McDonald's fast-food restaurants here, are holding up well, according to the first operator to launch the soy-based pattie.

Jim Lewis, vice president of Lewis Foods, Riverside, Conn., who added the menu item to his four Greenwich Village units more than a year ago and then expanded it to a few restaurants farther uptown, said two more restaurants in Brooklyn will soon be serving McVeggie Burgers.

"Sales have dropped from when we introduced it, but that always happens, and sales are still strong, still over where we projected it to be," Lewis told SN.

The product, now promoted as a Value Meal, did attract the vegetarian customer, Lewis said, "but we were a bit surprised at the customer profile." Apparently, the veggie burger brings in a wide range of people. Interviews conducted in his stores show that "we are getting, day to day, secretaries of all ages, men of all ages, and people from a lot of different ethnic backgrounds."

Some customers are meat-eaters who are simply adding this soy burger to their diet, Lewis found. It seems that they might be choosing a soy pattie for the health benefits of soy, he said, but it is not a low-fat product.

"We picked it more for the vegetarian reason and to establish a foothold in the Greenwich Village area. It's a unique place; people were asking me why we didn't serve a vegetable pattie, so I asked McDonald's and they let me," Lewis said. He worked with Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, Ill., to develop it.