Since March, McDonald’s has been testing cooked-to-order Quarter Pounders made with fresh beef as an alternative to frozen patties. The initiative is part of the chain’s attempt to improve food quality, after four straight years of traffic declines.
The addition of fresh beef to the menu joins initiatives like removing artificial ingredients from chicken nuggets and sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics in a push for a cleaner menu.
While the burgers are already available in some test markets, it is expected that the chain will release them in all U.S. stores by mid-2018. Three Dallas-area managers told Reuters that the switch has improved their Quarter Pounder sales from 20 percent to 50 percent in the nearly two years that they have been serving the product.
The burger takes about a minute longer to prepare than the frozen patty. Although the fresh beef takes less time to cook than frozen, the traditional frozen burgers are cooked in batches ahead of customer orders.
"Any time the cooking process begins after the customer orders, the service time will be slower," Richard Adams, a former Southern California McDonald's franchisee-turned-consultant, told Fortune.
Increased wait times could be perceived as a downside by the drive-thru customers that make up 70 percent of the firm’s U.S. revenue, especially as McDonald's wait times are already longer than some competitors. A study published last year by industry publication QSR Magazine showed that Wendy's, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, and KFC all have faster drive-through service times than McDonald's.
Wendy’s also already sells fresh burgers cooked to order, as do Whataburger and In-N-Out. According to McDonald’s, these rivals have siphoned 500 million U.S. transactions from the company's restaurants since 2012.
According to a report by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index based on interviews with restaurant customers, McDonald's has the lowest customer satisfaction rating as compared to similar chains. McDonald's scored a 69 out of 100, as compared to Burger King, which scored a 77, and Wendy's, which scored a 76.
McDonald's is also looking to extend its offerings to delivery markets. In April, the chain expanded its partnership with UberEats to reach more than 1,000 locations across the United States.
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