McDonald's Expands Fresh Beef Push As Burger Chains Seek Edge
McDonald’s Corp. will start using fresh beef for its quarter-pounder hamburgers across the US, moving away from frozen patties in one of its biggest operational shake-ups in years.
The world’s biggest restaurant company is in the process of switching to fresh beef for its quarter pounder and specialty signature crafted sandwiches at most US locations, the company announced at a restaurant near its headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.
Three years into a sales resurgence, McDonald’s is seeking another way to entice customers and fend off competition. In offering fresh beef, it’s taking a page from Wendy’s Co., which has long touted its use of hamburgers that are never frozen.
Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s US president, said the fresh-beef shift is “the most significant to our system and restaurant operations since all-day breakfast.”
The company hopes the fresh meat will speed up service by cutting preparation times once employees are fully trained. Executives said that the beef will take about a minute to cook, compared with two minutes for frozen patties.
While the fresh meat could attract diners, it may also pose a food-safety risk for franchisees, who operate about 90% of McDonald’s US stores. In 2016, when the company tried selling fresh patties in some of its locations, Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook acknowledged potential hiccups.
“There’s a different food handling required, clearly, when you’re dealing with fresh product than with frozen,” he said last year. The meat also has to be stored and transported differently by suppliers, Easterbrook has said.
The company has paid attention to “every little detail” to avoid any mishaps, Kempczinski said. Employees are required to handle the beef with gloves, and it’s kept in the back of big coolers to ensure it stays cool.
McDonald’s has taken other steps to improve its food since Easterbrook took the helm in 2015. McDonald’s removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and breakfast items such as scrambled eggs. The chain also began using real butter, instead of margarine, in breakfast sandwiches and took high-fructose corn syrup out of buns.
“We’ve got a lot of other plans on food,” Kempczinski said. “With a system of our size, you have to take it in bite-size chunks.”
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland