…McDonald’s tests system that could change the fast food industry
McDonald’s, which has been focusing on upgrading its core items to boost sales, is rolling out a series of changes designed to improve its signature burgers.
Buns will be softer. Cheese, gooier. Onion will be added to patties right on the grill. And the Big Mac sauce? There will be more of it.
“We found that small changes, like tweaking our process to get hotter, meltier cheese and adjusting our grill settings for a better sear, added up to a big difference in making our burgers more flavorful than ever,” said chef Chad Schafer, senior director of culinary innovation of McDonald’s USA, in a statement Monday. The upgrades apply to the Big Mac and the McDouble burger as well as the classic cheeseburger, double cheeseburger and hamburger.
The improvements were first made to burgers in international markets, the company said, and have already arrived in some US cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas. They’ll be available nationally by early next year.
The changes follow other improvements to key menu items.
In 2018, McDonald’s announced that it was switching to fresh beef for its Quarter Pounders, a complicated move with a big sales payoff. In 2021, it launched a crispy chicken sandwich to replace previous iterations — a relatively late arrival in the chicken sandwich wars, but one that seems to have resonated with McDonald’s customers.
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“We are gaining market share in both chicken and beef,” thanks to improved burgers and items like the chicken sandwich, said McDonald’s (MCD) CEO Chris Kempczinski during a January analyst call. “In an environment where our customers are looking for the simple and familiar, our core menu items have never been more relevant,” he said. In the US, sales at stores open at least 13 months jumped 5.9% in the fourth quarter of 2022, rising 10.3% for the whole year.
Even the humble cheeseburger is getting an upgrade.
Focusing on promoting its core menu items, rather than introducing new products, is a way to keep processes simpler and reduce friction in the kitchen. And McDonald’s has been using promotions like celebrity meal platforms and the adult Happy Meal to create buzz around its signature items.
“Throughout 2022, some of our most successful campaign platforms brought our customers closer to the core menu items,” Kempczinski said during the January call.
McDonald’s isn’t the only brand trying to improve its main offerings.
Burger King, which last year announced a plan to turn its business around, has been focusing on improving the Whopper and making it more visible in advertising. In the fourth quarter last year, it held Whopper trainings for franchisees. The brand said in February that the Whopper contributed to higher US sales in that quarter.