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McDonald's fights back with free coffee

Parija Kavilanz

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's another salvo in the ongoing fast-food breakfast war: McDonald's announced Friday that it will offer customers nationwide a free cup of McCafe coffee for two weeks.

The nation's largest fast-food chain said the campaign, which kicks off on Monday, will give breakfast customers at its participating locations a free small coffee.

McDonald's coffee gimmick immediately follows competitor Taco Bell's highly-anticipated rollout this week of its first-ever breakfast menu, which it dubbed as the "largest menu expansion in Taco Bell's 50-year history."

Taco Bell's move could take a big bite out of Mickey D's breakfast sales. Taco Bell said its breakfast ambition is aimed at making the quick-service chain standout in the crowded breakfast market by introducing items other than the usual breakfast sandwiches to customers.

For instance, Taco Bell's breakfast menu includes the A.M. Crunchwrap, an on-the-go tortilla wrap filled with scrambled eggs, hash browns, melted cheese and bacon or sausage patty.

Facing a sales slump, McDonald's recently said it was also considering expanding its breakfast hours. Breakfast at the restaurant typically ends in the late morning, aggravating some customers.

"We know that breakfast on the weekend cutoff at 10:30 doesn't go very well," said Jeff Stratton, the chain's U.S. head. He said the company is "just beginning" to reconsider how to best serve up the meal.

McDonald's said the free coffee is its way of encouraging new guests to try McCafe Coffee and "surprising them in unexpected ways all year long."

The company said that starting in mid-April, it will surprise a Twitter follower every day for the year with McCafe coffee and prizes.

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