Will people wait for new McDonald’s product?

  • hot, juicy burger
- Reuters, LOS ANGELES/DALLAS

Jun 21, 2017-

Tracy Moore grew impatient as she waited for a Quarter Pounder recently in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in central Dallas.

The burger, made with fresh beef and billed as hotter and juicer than the original made from a frozen patty, is part of the company’s effort to serve tastier food.

But after about four minutes, it was Moore who was steamed. Like other customers who’d ordered the new Quarter Pounder at the restaurant’s drive-through, she was asked to pull into a parking space and wait.

“If it’s going to be that long every time, I won’t order it. I’d go” elsewhere, said Moore, who hits the drive-through every morning for a Coke and dines frequently at the chain.

The tradeoff between time and taste looms large for McDonald’s Corp as it works to win back business lost to rivals. The introduction of cooked-to-order, quarter-pound burgers made with fresh beef is part of the chain’s attempt to improve food quality. Announced in March, the new sandwiches are already in selected test markets and are expected to be served in all US stores by mid-2018.

But the success of the initiative may well hinge on satisfying important customers like Moore: speed-minded drive-through patrons who account for 70 percent of the firm’s US revenue.

An on-demand Quarter Pounder takes about a minute longer to land in a customer’s hands than does the original sandwich, according to restaurant managers and analysts, even though fresh beef fries up faster than frozen patties. That’s because grilling begins only after a patron orders. Traditional Quarter Pounders were often cooked up in batches ahead of time. Every second counts in the fast-food business. McDonald’s drive-through speeds already lag those of some major competitors, according to one widely watched survey. McDonald’s does not share such data, but company representatives told Reuters earlier this year that service times have slowed.

Still, company executives are bullish on prospects for the popular Quarter Pounder, which accounts for about one-fourth of McDonald’s US burger sales. At an investor conference last month, Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said the changeover has created fewer complications than expected and that restaurant operators are on board.

Some industry veterans, however, are skeptical. Richard Adams, a former Southern California McDonald’s franchisee-turned-consultant, says convenience is paramount for the chain’s patrons, who may go elsewhere if speed deteriorates.

“Any time the cooking process begins after the customer orders, the service time will be slower,” Adams said. The fresh-beef initiative comes as pressure builds on McDonald’s kitchens.

Adams says restaurant crews already are juggling trickier menu items thanks to the recent national launch of McDonald’s new “Signature Crafted” sandwich line, which allows customers to pick their own meat, buns and toppings. 

Published: 21-06-2017 08:33

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