McDonald’s tweeted yesterday that most of its 14,000 locations in the U.S. would be using fresh, not frozen, beef in Quarter Pounders that will be cooked when ordered by the middle of 2018, somewhat taking the fast-food world’s eyes off the no-more-beefcake decision announced by Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s the day before
“Today's announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald's,” says McDonald’s USA president Chris Kempczinski in a news release. “Over the last two years, we have accelerated the pace of change around how we source and serve our food. Delivering fresh beef that’s prepared when our customers order their food is just another example of how we are raising the bar.”
“The announcement follows executives' admissions earlier this month that ‘hundreds of millions’ of visits had been lost by once-loyal customers who drifted away in search of better quality, convenience and value,” Zlati Meyer reminds us in USA Today.
Wendy’s, for one, had a rapid reaction: “@McDonalds So you’ll still use frozen beef in MOST of your burgers in ALL of your restaurants? Asking for a friend.”
Ouch. Of course, “fresh beef has been the biggest selling point at rival Wendy's,” as the AP points outs. “Calling what’s happening on Twitter between McDonald’s and Wendy’s a burger war would obscure the nuance of Wendy’s savage trolling,” quips Carlos Frías in the Miami Herald.
Indeed, “beef patties for the company’s signature Big Macs and other cheeseburgers would continue to be frozen, prepared ahead of time and kept warm,” reports Daniel Victor in the New York Times. “Becca Hary, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said McDonald’s would ‘continue to look at the rest of the menu based on what the customers are asking for.’”
Pricing remains a mystery. Each franchise owner determines prices, Victor writes, and “about 90% of the chain’s 14,000 restaurants are independently owned and operated.”
“There are larger forces at work that have prompted other menu changes at McDonald's, known for decades more for the billions of people served than its culinary choices,” the AP’s Joseph Pisani points outs. “The world's largest hamburger chain has been trying to improve its image as more people shun processed foods. Last year, it removed artificial preservatives from chicken McNuggets and cut out high-fructose corn syrup from its buns.”
Yesterday’s announcement, however, “represents one of the biggest operational changes in the company’s history,” writes Jonathan Maze for Nation’s Restaurant News.
“How big? It took two years and a team of 40 people, including operators, supply chain representatives, marketing and culinary experts, to devise the processes that will make the change feasible across 14,000 restaurants,” Maze continues. “‘It’s a sea change for our system,'” said Joe Jasper, a McDonald’s franchisee in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.”
Meanwhile, speaking on Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” yesterday, outgoing CKE Restaurant’s CEO Andy Puzder explained his rationale behind dropping racy ads from the Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s lineup.
“You and I certainly may like the ads we’ve been running a long time but the younger guys can get that on the Internet, they are more interested in where your beef is from … you can get sex on the Internet you don’t need a Carl’s Jr., or Hardee’s ad,” he reasoned. “So, the situation has changed and the way you get their attention with respect to your food products is the food. Not so much the beautiful actresses or super models anymore.”
Next thing they’ll be telling us is that “Fast Eddie” Lampert’s ESL Investments is as mired in muck as are his bets on the future of retailing, Sears and Kmart. Oops.