We Tried McDonald’s New ‘Build Your Burger’ Concept and…

Earlier this month, McDonald’s posted their worst sales decline in a decade. A large part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that the fast food chain has continued to fail at appealing to millennial customers. This has resulted in the fast food company losing most of their business to fast casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread. More and more entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the trend toward fast casual as well, like Kogi Truck head chef Roy Choi, who recently announced plans to open up his own healthy fast food chain to compete with McDonald’s.

Well, it looks like McDonald’s is starting to realize that they need to step up their game, as the company is set to make some big changes. This includes changing up their menu, providing better customer service and revamping their marketing strategy.

Our staff recently got invited to a private tasting at a McDonald’s in Laguna Niguel, California. We were asked to come test out their new “Build a Burger” concept, which allows patrons to customize their burgers with what McDonald’s trumpets as 100 percent pure beef and fresh ingredients. They pretty much adopted this concept from Chipotle and Five Guys.

From the outside, it looks just like any regular McDonald’s.

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You’ll notice some changes in the decor, however. It definitely has a cleaner and more modern look than your typical McDonald’s.

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While customers can order from the front like a normal customer, we were encouraged to use the new kiosks to take our order. Their new menu offers a wider variety of toppings for you to build your own personalized burger.

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For all you indecisive people, they have three main specialty options for you to choose from.

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Below is a video of one our editors, Waylae Gregoire, entering his order. The staff was very helpful and accommodating.

I ordered “Hot All Over” and added mushrooms and garlic sauce.

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Waylae ordered a fully custom burger with bacon, sharp white cheddar, guacamole (which comes in a bag — more on that down below), grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, sweet BBQ sauce, ketchup and mustard. For this burger, plus a large drink and fries turned out to be almost $10.00. Though, it was noted that these may not be the final prices.

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One positive right off the bat is that the presentation is certainly better than what you are used to at McDonald’s. They’re notoriously known for usually making burgers that scream “I don’t give a sh*t. Good presentation is not only important because it makes food more appetizing, but because it also encourages people to actually take photos and share them with their friends, which equals free promotion. Millennials love taking pictures of food that looks good. Take a look at the social engagement I got for a photo of my In-N-Out burger a couple months ago.

My burger wasn’t bad. The meat patty was a little rough, but overall I enjoyed it. The vegetables tasted pretty fresh and the sauces provided were pleasant. However, it wasn’t something I think I’d find myself craving at any point in the future. Although I customized the burger myself, the burger felt “engineered” and it lacked the feeling of authenticity found in better burgers.

While I understand that McDonald’s is a huge company that has no time to worry about the little things, I feel that authenticity is a huge thing for millennials. What is authenticity in food, you ask? It’s focusing on actually making food from scratch and avoiding empty sales pitches about “fresh ingredients” when you’re serving frozen meat patties with prepackaged sauces. Chipotle, for example, is also a public company, but almost all their ingredients are made in house.

Waylae, our staff food snob, thought no part of his burger tasted fresh and that it didn’t seem like it was prepared “with love.” A burger made with love, Waylae explained, would look and taste as if Spongebob Squarepants had made it — Spongebob pays meticulous attention to each and every single ingredient of his burgers to make sure that they’re perfect. Each burger is a work of art.

As a side note, the customer service was friendly and attentive. They checked up on us at least a couple of times to see if we needed anything.

After we ate, we were taken in the back for a tour. We noticed right off the bat that the tour guide kept mentioning keywords like “fresh” and “locally sourced” when mentioning ingredients to us. We were taken into the restaurant’s fridge and noticed that their guacamole came packaged. When I called the nearest Chipotle, I was told they make their guacamole fresh every morning, along with most of their salsas.

One major thing that we did like seeing was that the McDonald’s was now actually grilling their meat patties instead of microwaving them. Although the patties are still delivered frozen to the kitchen, it’s good to know that at least they’re grilled to order.

Final thoughts:

For the McDonald’s representatives reading this, please don’t take this post as us trashing your brand. We believe that these changes are a step in the right direction, but A LOT more work needs to be done if you even want to begin winning back business from millennials.

Most importantly, you need to trim down your menu and focus on perfecting certain products. The Big Mac is still one of my favorite sandwiches, but I would love to see you guys reinvent it with true quality ingredients made with the absolute love and authenticity I feel I get from the best fast casual options. The second thing is to pay your freaking employees more! Unhappy workers simply don’t make great products.

The food culture has shifted, and our generation is definitely more health conscious and not as likely to fall for the corporate fluff that used to work on previous generations. Either you can embrace this change and continue dominating, or you can be like Blockbuster, which said, “Build an internet business? Pfft, we’ll stick with what works for us,” only to then get steamrolled by Netflix. The choice is yours.

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