NEW YORK — McDonald's is planning to trim its menu, review its cooking methods and maybe even get rid of some of the ingredients it uses to change perceptions that it serves junk food.
CEO Don Thompson sought to reassure investors Wednesday that such changes will help strengthen the chain's appeal as it fights to hold onto customers. The discussion in Oak Brook, Illinois, came after the company earlier this week reported yet another monthly decline in U.S. sales. It said the figure fell 4.6 per cent at established locations in November.
Thompson has conceded McDonald's Corp. has failed to keep up with changing tastes. One of the problems is that people are increasingly moving toward foods they feel are fresh or wholesome, and the image of fast-food burgers and fries doesn't exactly fit that bill.
Among the changes Thompson and McDonald's USA president Mike Andres touched on were ingredients and how food is prepared and delivered.
Here's a look at what's in store:
In just the past decade, McDonald's has added 100 items to its menu, said Andres, who stepped into his role in October. While that has driven up sales, it also complicated the menu and made it harder for people to quickly decide what they want.
So starting next month, he said McDonald's will cut eight items from the menu and reduce the number of Extra Value Meals from 16 to 11. Thompson and Andres didn't say exactly what will get the axe, but favourites like the Big Mac likely won't disappear anytime soon.
Instead, Andres suggested McDonald's is looking at reducing the variations on particular items.
A representative for McDonald's said the company is testing a simplified menu that offers one Quarter Pounder with Cheese instead of four; one Premium Chicken sandwich instead of three; and one Snack Wrap instead of three.
Earlier, McDonald's has also said the Bacon Clubhouse burger — a premium offering introduced just this year — could be taken off the national menu.
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McDonald's Egypt offers a falafel sandwich that rivals a Big Mac any day. The falafel patties are shaped to look like burgers and drenched in the ever-present secret sauce that seems to pop up everywhere, from Europe to NYC halal carts. After inquiring, I found out the sauce was a not-so-mysterious but delicious tahini-garlic dressing. With the secret reveled, why not whip up some quick, homemade falafel and proceed to drench in sauce?
Bulgogi, literally fire meat in Korean, is a traditional marinated barbecue beef that is simply put, absolute mouth-watering deliciousness. McDonald's put their spin on the Korean favorite by sandwiching two pork patties in a hamburger bun, slathering it with bulgogi sauce, and calling it a day. I'll take two.
McDonald's version of the classic croque monsieur, the Croque McDo is a favorite amongst francophiles. Two slices of Emmental cheese and a slice of ham are squashed between toast and pressed in a sandwich maker, creating a gooey, fondue-like ham and cheese. Why not make it a meal with a beer? Yep, that's right, McDonald's in France offers beer. Even McDonald's in France is better. Damn.
These Middle Eastern favorites are fixtures all over the globe. McDonald's in Israel features barbecued beef on a lafa and pita. Both are served with a small Middle Eastern-style salad. Check out this hilarious McShawarma advertisement inspired by Pulp Fiction.
Fun Fact: India is the only country in the world where McDonald's does not serve beef. That means no Big Mac, and no Quarter Pounder. A moment of silence, if you please. Instead, vegetarian favorites like the McCurry Pan, a rectangular-shaped crust topped with curry, broccoli, baby corn, mushrooms and bell peppers and baked till crisp are common fare. Other favorites include the Chicken Maharaja Mac, Big Spicy Paneer Wrap (which should be the only kind of paneer wrap) and McAloo Tikki. We're all about the carb-on-carb sandwiches.
Recently we've waxed poetic on the virtues of the underexposed Turkish cuisine, and told you about our love affair with Turkey's Wet Burger. Although McDonalds' McTurco and Kofteburger (meatball) don't come close to our beloved Islak burger, we'll choose them over a Big Mac any day. Besides, it's been many moons since any of us were able to make a kofte without stuffing it with mozzarella.
Satay Friday is a sacred holiday here at Food Republic Headquarters. If only we could head down to the McDonalds below our office and pick up a McSatay. We're considering moving operations to Jakarta or maybe Bali for the sake of the food.
It's unfortunate that McDonald's Japan doesn't make one of our favorite Japanese treats, the carb-bomb yakisoba sandwich. I guess we'll have to settle for the creatively-named McPork -- a basic hamburger with a pork instead of beef patty -- and then maybe some green tea and a red bean ice cream sundae, which is not such a bad thing.
Cousin to the Japanese McPork, the Samurai is Thailand's answer to population that leans swine-wise and favors pork to beef any day. Maybe I was Thai in a previous life seeing as though my dedication to all things pork goes as far as wearing a small gold pig around my neck.
McDonalds goes Dutch in the Netherlands with the McKroket, a deep fried roll stuffed with chili. Think deep-fried sloppy joe. Perfect if you happen to find yourself with an increased appetite in Amsterdam.
Our assistant editor, Jess, just got back from reporting for Lufthansa in Nuremburg, Germany where the specialty on a roll is Drei im Weggla, a trio of small, spiced sausages. McDonald's take also includes a sausage trio with a smear of mustard.
The idea of McDonald's serving shellfish makes us a little quesy, but why not give the Canadians a shot with the McLobster -- eh? It may not be up to the standards of lobster purists, but it should tide you over until summer in the Hamptons. Snob.
Traditional Australian hamburgers usually include cheese, beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg (usually with a runny yolk) and bacon. McDonald's down under created a fusion between the classic Americano and the Aussie with their McOz by including beetroot in an otherwise classic Big Mac.
In New Zealand the McOz is taken up a notch by throwing in a fried egg. Voila: the Kiwiburger.
During the holiday season, McDonald's all over the UK offer the traditional British favorite. The savory pies are made with fruit-based mincemeat and classic holiday flavors: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
In 2010, McDonald's Mexico added the Flaming Hot Doritos Quarter Pounder, basically a quarter pounder souped up with layer of Flaming Hot Doritos and a healthy smear of guacamole. Taco Bell followed suit, and has recently come up with Doritos Tacos Locos. Not a fan? We don't blame you, why not opt for some spicy homemade guac on your burger instead?
The Greek Mac swaps out the original Big Mac's secret sauce and famed sesame seed bun for a pita and yogurt. We can't wait till McDolmas start popping up in Athens locations. I wonder what Yiayia would have to say about that.
McCriollo is Latin America's answer to the Egg McMuffin. Almost exactly the same, the only difference is a beefed-up bun in place of the classic English muffin. We've heard that the homemade variety make women fall macly in love.
In Chile, fries can be subbed with empanadas. The Chileans are onto something, and the Colombians seem to agree.
Spam is often referred to as the "Hawaiian Steak." Not by us, though. McDonald's in Hawaii offers a Spam breakfast in an attempt to offer authentic Hawaiian fare. Try all they want, nothing beats a great loco moco.
READING THE INGREDIENTS
McDonald's is trying to improve the image of its food, especially as people examine labels for artificial ingredients they're not familiar with, and therefore find unappealing.
Andres said McDonald's is looking at different cooking and holding procedures to enhance the appeal of its core items, as well as shrinking the number of ingredients it uses. He noted McDonald's restaurants go through supplies quickly, meaning it may be a relatively easy task.
"Why do we need to have preservatives in our food?'' he asked. "We probably don't.''
McDonald's also recently launched a marketing campaign that addressed common questions about its food, such as whether the beef has worms (the company's answer: "No. Gross! End of story.'').
HAVING IT YOUR WAY
The company is also making a big push behind a "Create Your Taste'' program that lets people pick the buns, cheeses and topping for their burgers. McDonald's says that will be in 2,000 of its more than 14,000 U.S. locations next year.
The rollout is seen as a response to the growing popularity of places like Chipotle, which lets people customize their orders by walking down a line and saying what they want on their bowls and burritos.
At McDonald's, offering such customization may not be that easy; the company has noted that "complicated'' orders for "Create Your Taste'' could take five to seven minutes, compared with just a couple of minutes for regular items.
Still, Thompson noted Wednesday that people who come to eat made-to-order burgers at the restaurant have a little more time on their hands and are willing to wait longer.
He also noted the "Create Your Taste'' program is not just a test, but a program that's in the process of being implemented.