In the day and age of food blogging, it’s quite common for food brands and restaurants to host events. Even McDonald’s.
Last fall, the number one fast food chain hosted an event for reporters and bloggers, and not an evening full of your average Big Macs and McFlurries. No, this was an evening of food made by celebrity chefs using ingredients from the McDonald’s menu. Chicken McNuggets doused in sweet and sour sauce and topped with parsley anyone?
According to the AP, for dessert guests were presented with a biscuit-doughnut hybrid, made with McDonald’s biscuit mix and pumpkin spice. Hosted in Tribeca, the evening was billed as “A transforming dining experience of ‘fast food’ to ‘good food served fast.’” Just last month there was a similar event in New Orleans, where “Beignets filled with grilled chicken and dusted with sugar were served alongside a packet of McDonald’s honey mustard sauce.” Um, gross?
As McDonald’s continues to face an image problem, both in the U.S .and abroad (Chicken MgNuggets were recently banned in Hong Kong, and Russia is working hard at also banning certain menu items), it’s doing what it can to make sure that it doesn’t lose an economic foothold, because customers have come to equate low prices with low quality.
“We’ve got to make sure that the food is relevant and that the awareness around McDonald’s as a kitchen and a restaurant that cooks and prepares fresh, high quality food is strong and pronounced,” CEO Don Thompson said early this year.
Would we really call McDonald’s food “high quality” though? That seems like quite the stretch.
While serving more salads and fresher ingredients might be a good PR stunt, when it comes down to it, people aren’t going to McDonald’s for health food. Salads for example make up about 2 to 3 percent of U.S. sales at the fast food chain. So while changing the menu might be good for the image, it doesn’t necessarily change people’s eating habits.
Apparently there are more PR stunts to come, with “chef events” like one recently hosted in Houston.
“Tonight is about displaying the fact that we have good food, good people and we are a good neighbor in the community as well as showcasing that our product is about great quality. Ninety-percent of our 35,000 restaurants worldwide and 15,000 in the U.S. are owned by owner/operators and that is where the good neighbor piece comes in,” said Victoria Guster-Hines, vice president of operations for McDonald’s in Houston, the night of the recent event.
Good food, good people, good neighbors? Not really the line I would use to describe McDonald’s, but hey, the more PR dollars they throw at it, the more people might start to believe it.
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Image: Mike Mozart