Weighing-in on the Latest “Mc-News”

Even if you don’t frequent fast-food establishments or the iconic golden arches, you’ve probably heard the news recently about McDonald’s historic move from frozen to fresh patties. While this may sound like a great advancement for a QSR who traditionally focuses on value menus, we can’t help but think of the implications and challenges this seemingly positive decision might bring with it.

In fact, how many consumers are scratching their heads thinking about the ingredients that make up that handheld delectable? Did they ever know it was frozen? If they did (or assumed), did they care? Such a dramatic change leads to many questions…not only for the consumer, but also for the greater [foodservice] industry.

Battle of the Burgers

Of the top 50 QSR chains in the country, there are a handful (including McDonald’s) of proclaimed “burger chains” still using frozen patties. Will this transformation by the burger giant force the hand of the others? What implication will that have on the fresh beef supply and the commodity market? Will this increase the price of burgers over time, and what impact, if any, will it have on the independent restaurant operator? All together now, “things that make you go hmmmm….”

Execution, Food-Safety & Taste

The process technologies put in place by McDonald’s are an engineering marvel. A peek through the drive-thru window shows a conveyor slowly spinning cups under a soda fountain dispensing just the right amount of the exact requested beverage. Planograms meticulously show kitchen workers how to carefully assemble each menu item, ensuring uniformity across a mind-blowing number of restaurants in more than 120 countries. It’s downright fascinating! Now insert a fresh, ground beef patty. Handled incorrectly, it could crumble or break apart. Improper temps can result in foodborne illness. Yikes!

And what about taste? How does this new patty affect the ever-so-distinguishable taste of one’s favorite Mc burger? After all, isn’t that what McDonald’s really sells? Consistency. That satisfying, familiar taste wherever you happen to be in this giant, burger-lovin’ world.

By May 2018, McDonald’s across the country will begin using fresh patties for their Quarter Pounder and other premium burgers, but hands off the Big Mac. Ironically, the chain’s #2 selling item will stick with “Two all-beef FROZEN patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” That right there begs our original question—do they (consumers) know and more importantly, do they care?

Consumer Acceptance

From retail to foodservice, brands and operators alike are riding the tidal wave of clean label, better-for-you ingredients. Which is most certainly not a bad thing. However, it remains to be seen if a patty switch is enough to change the image engrained in us since we were pre-teens trying to capture every character in the latest Happy Meal toy collection. Sure, we’re grown up now, and sure McDonald’s offers salads and “healthier” choices, but is it really enough to lure today’s discriminating mom to eat there without being dragged by a begging five-year-old? The proof remains to be seen.

Of course, we ask all these questions knowing full well that McDonald’s likely asked them a thousand times over themselves before launching such an epic change. By no means do we question the burger behemoth’s ability to execute a successful menu change. Just look at their breakfast all-day offerings…that brilliant menu idea led to better than expected revenue and profit in 2017! We simply wonder if this fresh patty will be an Arch Deluxe (one of their most expensive failures) or a McGriddle (a top menu favorite featuring no artificial flavors or preservatives)? Like most things…time, and revenue, will tell.

Jake’s Take—Just as every dog has his day, we’re sure every burger has its bun. But for us here at Jake’s, we’re a bit biased to our fresh, made-to-order patties from our very own custom butcher shop, Gourmet Ranch. Exceptional taste, flavor and juiciness. Ask your fabulous Jake’s rep for a sample. You’ll be glad you did!