There’s something new at McDonald’s this week, and it’s not just the chain’s reboot of its Quarter Pounder burger.
It’s what goes with it, an 8 1/2-inch napkin that’s as wide as a sheet of letter paper.
“Fresh beef cooked when you order,” it reads. “So hot & juicy, you’ll need a bigger napkin.”
A huge napkin for a huge launch.
“This is the biggest thing we’ve done since all-day breakfast,” said Tim Brown, operations development manager for the chain.
McDonald’s in Southern California is going public with the new Quarter Pounder this week, changing its footing with competitors such as Wendy’s and In-N-Out Burger that don’t use frozen beef.
As stated on the napkin, the new Quarter Pounder is:
Made with beef patties that are pre-shaped but never frozen.
Made to order, instead of having pre-made burgers waiting under heat lamps.
It’s been 13 months since McDonald’s announced it would phase out frozen beef, but the project has been in the works for two to three years, Brown said.
The rollout began on the East Coast. Now that it has reached the West Coast, Chicago-based Brown and other company reps are making the rounds in Southern California to spread the word. the campaign includes new TV commercials and events for social media influencers, including a pop-up display near USC on Wednesday, May 9.
And for good measure, there’s a new, limited time sandwich called Garlic White Cheddar made with creamy garlic aioli and garlic chips on a quarter pound burger or chicken breast on a toasted artisan roll.
On Tuesday, Brown was in Grand Terrace with Todd Horner, who with his family owns and operates more than 30 McDonald’s throughout Southern California. They were showing off the kitchen in one of Horner’s restaurants.
“You basically cook two-sided,” Brown said at the grilling station where the beef goes under a press “like the George Foreman-type grill” for 60-80 seconds.
Reaching down to a knee-high refrigerator/freezer, he said “This is a new piece of equipment that we had to do for fresh beef. The reason we had to upgrade the refrigerator was because it opens and closes so much throughout the day that we had to put a stronger compressor in there to make sure it maintains the proper temperature of 34-40 degrees throughout the day.”
When a customer makes an order, the sound of a cowbell comes from a computer monitor, telling a cook to start grilling.
In addition to equipment upgrades, McDonald’s had to get its five beef suppliers throughout the United States on board and train its staff on new safety procedures. Employees wear one-use plastic gloves when handling the raw meat.
The decision to change the Quarter Pounder was based on customer requests, Brown said, and their response will determine what McDonald’s does next. Smaller patties for other sandwiches, such as the Big Mac, are still frozen.
Customers have already noticed a difference in the Quarter Pounders, said Horner.
“There’s such positive feedback. I literally haven’t had a complaint about it yet when I go out and talk to a customer. It makes me know we’re doing the right thing.”
Horner likes it as well.
“It almost makes it seem lighter,” he said of the meat patty. “When I bit into my first one, I said the bun seems different. It’s the same bun. But the ingredients are a little more highlighted and the cheese favor comes out a little more.
“My favorite is seeing people cut into it and see the cheese melt down the meat on the inside.”
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