The folks running the Golden Arches just made a major announcement. Responding to public pressure and drastically falling sales, McDonald’s management has announced it will begin using fresh, not frozen, beef in its famous Quarter Pounder sandwiches in most of its US locations.
This decision is also in response to a huge marketing push by rival fast food retailer Wendy’s, which has made a big deal recently about using only fresh beef in its signature sandwiches. While McDonald’s says the switch for the Quarter Pounder will take place immediately, it may be some time before other sandwiches make the switch. For the foreseeable future, the Big Mac and McDouble will continue to be made using frozen patties.
What McDonald’s management hopes people will focus on, though, is the trend toward healthier, better-tasting food. Top execs admit they’re losing customers by the millions thanks to consumers opting for other chains offering better tasting food. As a result, management made the decision last year to start making some changes.
First on the agenda was improving its popular chicken McNuggets. Gone are the artificial preservatives in the chicken. Then the chain cut corn syrup from its buns. Now, the “fresh” meat for burgers.
There’s no doubt consumers respond to “fresh” in a much more positive way than they do to “frozen.” This push toward a fresher, healthier menu has the potential to bring people back to McDonald’s who had all but given up on the Golden Arches. Just how many people have stopped going to McDonald’s? Tough to say, but the company does measure transactions, which are down 500 million in the United States alone since 2012.
Some might say this has to do with changing consumer tastes and diets. That’s partly true, but it only tells half the story … if that. McDonald’s acknowledges this loss of customers is the result of increased competition offering more choices for consumers. Sure, some of this is so-called “fast casual” options touted as healthier, such as Panera or Chipotle or Crispers. But it also includes a rise in burger joints such as Five Guys, Culver’s, and Burger Monger, that customers simply prefer.
But increased competition alone doesn’t account for the drop-off. Sure, people might try the new guy in town, but they come back to the familiar if it can compete. In many cases, head-to-head, McDonald’s failed to compete with these other chains – on taste or overall customer satisfaction. These factors caused consumers to try other options and just not go back to McDonald’s. This is a trend that won’t fully be reversed by adding some fresh beef, but it is a step in the right direction.