Starting early next month, McDonald's will begin selling a single Georgie Pie product at 11 of its restaurants in Auckland and Waikato, and isn't ruling out a return of standalone Georgie Pie stores.
The Steak Mince 'N' Cheese pie will have a $4.50 price tag - a far cry from the $1 pies remembered by nostalgic fans of the Georgie Pie chain, which was shut down by McDonald's in the late 1990s after the Golden Arches acquired the business from supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises.
The introduction of the pies was a pilot project, but a return of Georgie Pie stores was possible, said head of communications McDonald's, Simon Kenny.
"To set up a McDonald's restaurant costs typically between four and five million dollars and a standalone Georgie Pie restaurant would be a similar cost," Mr Kenny said. "So to jump in and build a standalone restaurant in a trial wouldn't make sense, but you never say never."
McDonald's said the pies would be produced to the original recipe, and the only significant alteration was the removal of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a controversial food additive.
The pies will be manufactured at the former Georgie Pie production facility in Manukau by Goodman Fielder, which purchased the plant from Progressive Enterprises.
Georgie Pie's former general manager, Brian Popham, had been brought in to consult on the product development process, McDonald's said.
The pies will initially be available at McDonald's stores in Auckland's Greenlane and Queen St.
Stores in Albany (Coliseum Drive), Kelston, St Lukes mall, Ti Rakau Drive and Mangere will begin selling the pies shortly after.
They will also be sold at the Golden Arches' restaurants in Hamilton's Frankton, 5 Cross Roads and The Base, plus the McDonald's store in Te Awamutu.
The company says the pie may become available nationwide, and additional Georgie Pie flavours might be added.
Last year McDonald's managing director Patrick Wilson said the company was putting more resources into evaluating what it could do with Georgie Pie, but was also wary of being accused of "bastardising" one of the country's best-loved brands.
Today he said he was excited to see how customers would react to tasting a Georgie Pie after so many years.
"We understand the passion Georgie Pie evokes for New Zealanders," Mr Wilson said. "It's part of our popular culture and bringing it back is a big responsibility. We're committed to delivering to the original recipe and treating the Georgie Pie brand with the respect it deserves."
He said bringing back a product after 15 years was a complex process and the pilot rollout will help test the product operationally, while providing valuable business and consumer insights.
"Our research suggests that Kiwis still have a big appetite for their favourite pie brand ... From firsthand experience I can confirm the Steak Mince 'N' Cheese pie tastes as good as I remember. We believe Georgie Pie holds its own in 2013 and we're confident the pilot will be a success," Wilson said.
McDonald's said combo prices for the pie were yet to be confirmed.
Georgie Pie closed in 1999, but McDonald's still holds the trademark and intellectual property rights.
Die hard former customers have accused McDonald's of killing the Georgie Pie brand and a "Bring Back Georgie Pie" Facebook page has more than 54,000 members.