Hugh Robert reports at that while many restaurants – independent and chain-operated alike – struggle with today’s challenging business environment, Oak Brook, IL-based McDonald’s Corporation, with over 31,000 restaurant worldwide, continues to innovate at a pace that’s leaving the rest of industry breathless.

On July 2, McDonald’s completed a nationwide rollout of its first new burger since 2001, the Angus Third Pounder. Offered in three variations, a Deluxe, a Bacon & Cheese, and a Mushroom & Swiss, the new burger represents the culmination of a two-year product development effort.

Made of one-third pound Angus beef, each burger is served on a “bakery-style” seeded bun. The new sandwiches also feature garnishes like raw red onion, sauteed mushrooms, and sliced bacon, all of which are new to McDonalds’ kitchens.

Priced at around $4 in most markets, the Angus burger is designed to increase check averages as well as help McDonald’s compete with casual dinner houses for supper-hour traffic.

McDonald’s also continues to aggressively promote its McCafe specialty coffee effort, most recently by introducing a Free Mocha Monday program.

Every Monday through Aug. 3, McDonald’s locations will be giving away special tasting-sized iced or hot mocha coffees from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., no purchase required (and subject to local participation).

The McCafe program has apparently had an impact on Starbucks Corp., which reports lower customer counts and has reduced prices on some of its coffee drinks.