Commentary

McDonald's Takes Fresh Approach With Archburger Test

McDonald’s has been testing a new burger made from fresh meat in seven locations nationwide. It is “the latest move by the fast food chain to swap out frozen beef as it seeks to improve its image,” the AP’s Joseph Pisani writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“McDonald’s held similar tests for fresh beef Quarter Pounders for about a year before announcing in March that it would roll it out to most of its 14,000 restaurants by the middle of this year. McDonald's said the latest test is limited, and it is seeking feedback from customers and its restaurants,” Pisani continues. “Fresh beef is a big change for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, which has relied on frozen beef patties for more than 40 years,” he points out.

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“News about the Archburger trial run and the buzz surrounding the Quarter Pounder switch to fresh beef and the artisanal sandwiches will help McDonald's same-store sales this year, especially in the second half of 2018, [Instinet analyst Mark] Kalinowski forecasts,” reports Zlati Meyer for USA Today. “‘It looks increasingly possible that there may be additional news on the fresh-beef front during 2018,’ he wrote, wondering whether McDonald's would start using fresh beef for Big Macs, regular hamburgers and regular cheeseburgers ‘at some point.”

As fresh as the meat may be, the sauce for the Archburger seems to be a blast from the past.

“With the test, it appears that McDonald's ‘Arch Sauce’ has returned to the menu for the first time since the late 1990s,” writes Kate Taylor for Business Insider. “Arch Sauce is a mustard-mayo combination that McDonald's debuted as a topping for the Arch Deluxe — a sandwich aimed at more sophisticated and ‘adult’ customers — that debuted in 1996.”

But, as she goes on to point out, the Arch Deluxe was a monumental flop.

“McDonald's spent an estimated $150 million to $200 million advertising the Arch Deluxe's rollout, which was, at the time, the most expensive promotional campaign in fast-food history, the New York Timereported. The fast-food chain's executives predicted that the burger would bring in $1 billion in sales in 1996. However, the burger — which, at between $2.09 and $2.49, was pricier than typical McDonald's fare — failed to win over customers and was discontinued in the late ’90s,” Taylor writes.

What’s different? We are.

“The Archburger trial comes at a time when consumers pay more attention to what’s in their food, both at home and when eating out,” USA Today’s Meyer reminds us. “As fast-casual chains that emphasize clean eating continue to grow in popularity, such as Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, the fast food industry is paying attention. For example, several chains, including Burger King and KFC, have pledged to stop using chicken treated with antibiotics.”

Indeed, “the Archburger comes as the classic fast food chain has lost a significant portion of its market share to rival chains in the past few years and is looking to make changes. The company admitted during its investor conference last year that its restaurants had lost 500 million sales transactions since 2012, according to Crain’s Chicago Business,” writes Gina Hall for Chicago Business Journal.

One place you can check out the Archburger in all of its glorious manifestations is the McDonalds located on Highway 169 at North 135th East Ave., between Owasso and Collinsville, Okla., according to NewsOn6.com.

“There are three options for the burger, a regular Archburger, Bacon Archburger and an Archburger L&T,” wrote an anonymous reviewer for Owassoisms the day the concoctions arrived in town last month. “The standard Archburger base is potato bun, fresh (never frozen) beef cooked when you order, cheese, onion, pickle and Arch Sauce. The Price? $2.19. The Archburger L&T simply adds lettuce and tomato. The Archburger with bacon — adds bacon to the standard burger. It is the most expensive one of the group, economically priced at $2.89.

“We taste-tested each of the new burgers today, and I can honestly say ‘I’m Lovin’ It.’”

That rave we/I endorsement may only be a drop in the “Billions and Billions Served” bucket, but it represents yet another new beginning for a concept that served our ancestors well for millennia. Fresh meat. Imagine that.

1 comment about "McDonald's Takes Fresh Approach With Archburger Test".
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  1. Michael Strassman from WGBH, January 3, 2018 at 10:16 a.m.

    Ooooh, McDonald's discovered that a hamburger tastes better when it doesn't start as a frozen puck! If this is their big epiphany, I wouldn't count on them adjusting to the 21st century fast food landscape. Other restaurants are serving eclectic ethnically inspired menus and finding ways to serve fresh, healthy, FAST items that taste good, and McDonald's is excited because they figured out that people prefer a burger that wasn't made last month. This is not an indicator that they 'get it'. Clearly, they are mired in their basic operational model--low-skill labor, production-line set-up, massive and homogenuous ingredients supply chain--such that they cannot adjust to the new environment and consumer preferences. Unless they have a come-to-jeezuz moment where they change their value proposition from "burgers and fries fast" to "good food made fast", their position will shrink to that of dominant fast-junk-food chain, instead of dominant fast food chain.

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