McDonald's Launches "Fresh Beef" for its Quarter Pounders (USA)

Discussion in 'Business & Economics' started by Neddy Bate, Apr 16, 2018 at 11:37 PM.

  1. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    TLDR? Short version:
    I went to McDonald's and ordered a Quarter Pounder without realising that they had launched a new "Fresh Beef" policy for its Quarter Pounders (USA). Near havoc ensues.

    Long version:

    I hardly ever go to McDonalds, but when I do I set my expectations pretty low, and just hope it won't be too terrible. My life is pretty routine, so for many years I have always passed the same store, and never stop in, except when desperate. That only happens about once or twice per year, but I always go to the drive-thru, and I always get the same thing: The #2 meal, which is a Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries, and a drink.

    In my limited experience, this results in a relatively quick drive-thru experience, which is about the only good thing I can say about it. I have come to accept that I might receive a burger that seems like it has been under the warming lights long enough to turn the bun to an almost stale or toast-like texture, or that I might receive fries that are no longer hot. It's just par for the course there.

    Well, I was desperate today, so I pulled into the drive through, and gave my order, the #2 meal. To my surprise, the fellow taking the order replied with the question, "You mean the Quarter Pounder?" I wondered why he would ask that question, knowing that it should be listed right there on the order entry computer in front of him. I thought, maybe he is taking this order from memory, and just wants to confirm that he has memorized the meals by number. Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but suffice to say that was probably NOT the reason for his question. More on this later.

    I pulled up to the first window to pay, and the girl there asked, "What was your order?" This time I said "the Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal, with diet Coke." I figured I should not use the numbered menu this time, since it seemed to be causing people some trepidation for the first time ever. She looked at me in a way I had never seen before, almost as if I had ordered something special, which McDonalds is known for not being too keen on providing. I paid, and drove on to the second window, where I was given my drink, and asked to pull up into a special parking space usually reserved for people who's food will take so long to prepare that it would hold up the drive-thru.

    While I waited, I started to get nervous, and wondered what might have caused me to be shuffled over to that dreaded parking space. "Maybe they are making some fresh fries," I hoped. As I waited, I looked over at the posters in their windows and saw "Fresh Beef" posters advertising that their Quarter Pounders are now made with fresh beef. I thought, well, fresh beef should cook faster than frozen beef, so this still could be a win-win situation. Maybe I would get fresh fries, or maybe a fresh juicy burger or both! Nope...

    As I sat there waiting, I tried to remember if I had seen any McDonald's commercials about this "fresh beef" on TV, but none came to mind. I did vaguely remember some Wendy's commercials that were making fun of some of its competitors for using frozen beef. Time ticked on, and after a pretty long time (I didn't time it but would guess 7 minutes), someone walked out to my car with a brown bag in their hand. As I rolled down my window she asked, "What did you order?" as she unrolled the top of the bag and cautiously peered inside. I repeated the order again, and she handed me the bag, seemingly relieved that the contents of the bag were correct, and that it was finally out of her hands.

    Now you are probably wondering what I received. Was it freshly made fries? Was it a fresh juicy burger? What was it? What happened?

    Well, it was NOT freshly made fries. The fries seemed to have been old and cold enough that they might have been in the bag the whole time I waited. The burger DID have a patty that was slightly juicier (greasier?) than normal, and it did have a pinkish hue in the middle. Normally that would be a good thing on a non-fast-food burger, but it was a little strange for a McDonalds burger. The extra juice seemed to have made the cheese go into a liquid state, not the usual McPlastic texture of their cheese that I was used to. And somehow, they managed to still have a bun with a seemingly stale or almost toast-like texture, as if the bun itself might have been under the warming lights while the burger was being cooked. Strange, to say the least, and certainly not worth the wait.

    After thinking about it , I came to understand the reason for the many strange looks and questions regarding my order. They were sending out a non-verbal message. Didn't I know that know that ordering a Quarter Pounder now meant that it had to be cooked to-order, thereby disrupting the workflow that they had spent years learning and perfecting? No, I did not know that. But now I do.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 11:42 PM
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    I've had to wait for the standard burger as well, so it may be unrelated.
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  5. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    Yes, my having to wait could certainly be unrelated. And the fries not being fresh could certainly be unrelated.

    The main things that were different in this experience were the burger patty being more rare (pinkish in the middle), and the cheese having become liquified on the meat. I think those are definitely related to the "fresh beef" policy that the posters in their windows advertised.

    I think the somewhat strange comments and behaviors of the workers were probably also related to the new fresh beef policy. It seemed to me that perhaps the Quarter Pounder had become something of a "special order" in that regard. It is one thing to simply make the burgers from fresh beef rather than frozen, but it is another thing entirely if they are now cooking those fresh beef patties on a per-order basis.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 1:36 AM
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    (not being facetious here)
    I'm trying to read between the lines. After all is said and done, you did get the same thing you usually would get, only this time it took ten minutes because it was fresh beef?

    If this is their standard now, wherein lay the confusion when you ordered a standard meal? Were they trying to discourage ALL orders of the QPwC?
    RainbowSingularity likes this.
  8. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    It wasn't exactly the "same thing I would usually get" because of the patty being more rare, and the cheese being more liquified. But of course those are only minor issues, and perhaps those are the very changes they were hoping to achieve with the new policy.

    Sorry, I did not mean to make anyone have to read between the lines. I should have just stated that I am wondering whether their standard now is to cook each fresh-beef quarter pounder only after it has been ordered, and then have the customer wait. Now that I hear it stated like that, it doesn't make much sense for them to do that.

    I wasn't confused when I ordered it, and I'm not sure whether or not they were confused by my order, (it is a long-standing product, so no one would have been confused normally). The fresh beef policy is new enough that they currently have posters about it in their windows, so I could speculate that all of this might be that the employees are getting used to the new procedures.

    I don't think they were necessarily trying to discourage any order of the QPwC (how could they do that?) but their comments seemed to be telegraphing that I had ordered something that was going to require special preparation. It didn't used to be like that, so if that is the case now, it is a change in the customer experience as well as the product.

    The thread was supposed to be about whether McD's might have made a mistake in making the change, and trying to figure out what other changes they might have made.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 3:05 AM
  9. RainbowSingularity Registered Senior Member

    they operate on a numbers game.
    thus they would be able to quantify a loss factor on normal traffic flow to allow them to hide the cooking time while the person waited at the counter or sitting down.

    it baffles me why people accept cold fries.
    why pay for cold stale fries ?(if its better than nothing, why are you paying for nothing?)
  10. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    Yes, but at the drive-thru that would mean asking the car to pull over to a certain parking spot to wait, so the extra cooking time is not quite as hidden then. I did consider that maybe the reason everyone was acting strange was because they thought I was "supposed to know" that the drive-thru is not the place to order a burger that would have to be cooked just for me. But I did not even know about their fresh beef campaign until I parked to wait, and then noticed the "fresh beef" posters in their windows.

    You are right, and I think the same thing applies to the stale bun being applied to the freshly cooked beef patty. Unfortunately, time is of the essence when I go there, and returning items is not an option when time is pressing like that. That is the only time I go there, when I need something very fast, and I am willing to accept whatever low quality they might offer in exchange for speed. Cooking a patty just for me, in that case, and having me wait for my cold fries and stale bun is not an improvement in my case.
    RainbowSingularity likes this.
  11. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    I don't see why the cooking time should be greater than from frozen.
  12. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    You're right, cooking time should be less for fresh beef compared to frozen. Unless they used to cook them ahead of time, and then just re-heat them in the microwave. So I think the question is whether they have stopped that practice in the name of "fresh beef" and decided to cook them from fresh after they are ordered. That would slow things down, and also seems to fit with the experience I had. And if they are doing that just to pair it with cold fries and a stale bun, it does not seem worth it. But of course that was just one experience, (since the fresh beef thing started anyway), so there is not enough data to know at this time.
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    There may be a host of interstitial steps involved that they haven't streamlined yet.
    eg. Maybe they don't have grill-side fridges and have to get the paddies from the main fridge.
  14. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    I was thinking about calling my local store to ask them if they are now cooking the fresh beef patties for the quarter pounders right when ordered. But then I remembered we have the internet, so I searched and found this:

    Just as I suspected! So if I want something really fast from there, I should probably consider ordering something that does not have a 1/4 pound patty. What a strange new world.
  15. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    O wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
    That has such burgers in't!
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Maybe the change to fresh beef came because they can properly cook it now that there's no risk of ammonia fires*.

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    * totally apocryphal
  17. RainbowSingularity Registered Senior Member

    cooking from frozen is more dangerous than cooking from fresh.
    if it is fresh it should be (safer)safe.
    once it is frozen it has many opportunities to become contaminated, then poor cooking that does not cook it properly all the way through is very dangerous and irresponsible.
    imagine a new mother giving(sharing) a tiny bit of (unknowingly)uncooked beef(that has been dropped on the floor and sneezed on by sick staff and touched by human feaces) (not knowing its uncooked) to her small child. the immune system would not be well established. though it might come out very quickly if they are lucky.

    i rarely ever eat at fast food chains because their hygine standards are shockingly poor.
    ... and even then i am selective in what i get knowing some of the food types will be contaminated most of the time.
    i have walked out of many prior or during an order when i have seen a staff member touching food with their bare hands when they should not be or attempting to put food back in the server waiting rack after it has been dropped on a serving bench or even the floor.
    i have lost count of how many times i have seen this going on.

    fastfood chains rely on high staff turn over low wages and people not demanding good quality food or hygine.

    it is no different to paying for a construction company to build a public building who do not wear saftey equipment or check their work for faults.
    what you are discribing is a very low quality of training and staff management.
    it is a clear sign the system has broken down and they are cutting corners as much as possible.
    they probably have a slob of a team manager or the team manager has abandonned them along with poor training.
    staff who simply do not care.
    i have seen this many times before and recognise it quite quickly.
    you just ask for your money back and drive away without talking about it.
    its far safer to get your food from somewhere else.

    i do have a tip for you.
    if you are confident with that particular store.
    when you order you simply and very politely ask
    "could you please make sure my fries are really hot & fresh and that the burger bun is not too dry or stale"
    if they are a good store you will see them kick it up a notch like watching them change gear as they pass on the extra request to check things or change out the fries.
    they shoud(depending on how new the fries are) respond with "are you happy to wait while we put on a new batch of fries for you?"
    to which you always reply yes
    if they fail to deliver you never go back.

    a good team enjoy fussy customers because it is a welcome challenge for the team to kick it up a notch and bond & feel like they are really making a difference.
    on occasion i have seen a fast food store team operating like a formula 1 pit crew.
    its quite impressive to watch when its top quality.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018 at 6:23 AM
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'm not sure where your facts are from.

    The primary reason for freezing food in the first place is that virtually no harmful bacteria can survive at those temps.

    The closer to room temp food is, the faster bacteria will multiply to toxic levels.
  19. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    There is a higher-end hamburger place near here where they cook the fresh beef patty right after it is ordered. They have designated parking spots right along the drive-thru path for cars to park and wait for their order to be cooked. It is built into their drive-thru system. See the green circles in the image below.

    Then after you get your food, you just start up your car and drive forward to leave, almost like a regular drive-thru. See the green arrows in the image below.

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    But McDonalds drive-thru is not like that. If they tell you to park, you have to leave the drive-thru path and park in a regular parking spot that is designated for this purpose. See the red circle in the image below.

    Then, after you get your food, you have to back up into the traffic of the other cars trying to navigate their drive-thru system. Then you have to merge with the other cars in order to leave the parking lot in the same direction that the other cars are going. See the red arrows in the image below.

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    These are just some of the reasons I would prefer not to have McDonalds cook my patty after it is ordered. I guess next time I will try a McDouble or something.
  20. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

  21. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    Yes I saw it! It was pretty interesting. I wonder what the McDonald brothers or Ray Kroc would have to say about the 1/4 lb burger now being cooked after the customer orders it.

    I guess back then they might have cooked their patties to order, but I don't think they even had the 1/4 lb patties then, so the smaller burgers would probably cook fast enough that no one had to wait long. I think a 5 minute wait was considered too long by them. And for a lunch rush, I bet they just kept cooking the burgers constantly, rather than wait for each customer's order to start cooking each burger. That is just crazy, unless you are a higher-end burger place where the quality of the patty is absolutely paramount.

    In my opinion, the new policy is just McD's pretending to be something they are not. I do not want to park my car and wait for my very own burger patty to cook after I order it, because it is still just a quarter pounder anyway, and it does not become a high-end burger from just that. If they could cook them ahead of time and get me thru the drive through without parking my car, that would be acceptable.
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that is quite right. My understanding is that bacteria are not killed by freezing, but are simply unable to multiply. Once thawed, frozen food needs to be cooked just as quickly as if it were fresh, as the bacterial activity picks up where it left off when the stuff was frozen.
  23. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    That's what I was wondering. The brothers had arrived at a compromise between quality and quantity but they eventually split with Kroc over that issue. I wonder if the corporation is trying to slide a little bit back toward the quality side - or do they just want to make it look that way?

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