In tweaking its iconic Quarter Pounder hamburger line by mid-2018 with fresh beef, the brand’s U.S. operation is advancing a primary goal for a chain that was founded on its hamburgers and now aims to be known as “the better burger restaurant,” as CEO Steve Easterbrook has vowed.
The “Fresh Beef Never Frozen” commitment is one of the biggest to date by McDonald’s to win back any customers who may have strayed to rivals such as Smashburger and Wendy’s, which highlighted fresh beef in a Super Bowl ad campaign last month with a “never frozen” message.
Today we've announced that by mid-2018, all Quarter Pounder burgers at the majority of our restaurants will be cooked with fresh beef. pic.twitter.com/Bdf99ALlxw
— McDonald's (@McDonalds) March 30, 2017
Of course, McDonald’s has built its business efficiency on serving frozen beef patties, prepared in advance and kept in a warming tray. Taste is the big objective in making this move, as well as perceptions. “The only ones who care [about fresh beef] are the ones who don’t eat at McDonald’s,” one franchisee told Eater.
“When you’re cooking a fresh patty on the grill, you need to cook it less,” Kempczinski added. “Faster cook time on the grill means that you have better flavor retention and it comes right off the grill and is delivered to the customer. Besides the perception, there are other associated benefits.”
The switch will require training restaurant workers in new food safety and handling protocols. This is no small consideration, given McDonald’s sterling record on this score—and the griddle that Chipotle landed on over food-handling practices. It’s also vowing to hold the line on price and doesn’t need to change beef suppliers.
It’s also a bold move by Easterbrook to boost growth and customer loyalty. Other strategies have included the 2015 introduction of all-day breakfast and the recent rollout of a mobile order and pay app, with curbside service.
“Over the past two years, we’ve made a series of bold, tangible changes for our customers,” Easterbrook stated. “Serving All-Day Breakfast, moving to cage-free eggs and testing delivery are all proof of our commitment to build a better McDonald’s. And we are committed to transforming more aspects of our business, including offering a more modern and enjoyable dining experience, adding new levels of convenience and technology, and making more positive changes to the food we serve.”
“Today’s announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald’s,” added McDonald’s USA President Chris Kempczinski. “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. We’re just getting started, and can’t wait to show you what’s next.”
“Let’s start making moves customers want us to, but by no means are we done,” Kempczinski also told USA Today about the announcement. “This is a first step.”