Shhhh! Don’t tell my Slimming World lady, but last week I was forced to eat a Big Mac and fries at McDonald’s! Well, maybe forced is a bit strong – let’s say I was strongly encouraged. But I did have a diet Coke with it, so that’s ok. I’m trying not to think about the syns (37, for those who care), but it was all in the name of work! One of the things I love about this new blogger lifestyle I’m cultivating is getting to do stuff that’s a bit out of the ordinary, and this week I got to go behind the scenes at McDonald’s to see all their new innovations – and I got to make (and eat!) my own Big Mac!
The last time I was behind the scenes in McDonald’s was approximately 1983, when it was the ‘in’ thing to have your birthday party there. The birthday child and a select few lucky friends then got a tour of the kitchen. I can definitely confirm that things have moved on since then, and technology and efficiency are the names of the game nowadays.
A group of fellow bloggers met up at the Walsgrave restaurant in Coventry, where the owner of the franchise, Sarah, was keen to show off her bang-up-to-date technology and explain to us McDonald’s vision for the near future. It’s the only McDonald’s I’ve seen that has its own kids play area and, as well as that, there are balloons, balloon modelling and, for a small charge, face painting. The proceeds of this are donated to the Ronald McDonald House charity. There is a strong focus on family dining at this restaurant, and Sarah and her team are keen to make eating there more of an experience to be enjoyed together.
There has been a real effort recently to change the perception of McDonald’s from somewhere you can grab a quick, bite to eat to more of a dining ‘experience’. I’ve noticed it on the occasions I’ve taken the kids for something to eat, and Sarah told us more about the changes, which are rolling out gradually across the business.
Behind the scenes, the way the food is prepared has changed. Instead of batch-cooking and preparing burgers and wraps, which can then sit for a while before being served, meals are now prepared as they are ordered. This means that as well as preparing the meal exactly as the customer wants it, it is as fresh and as hot as it can be when served. No more lukewarm nuggets! The system is very efficient, with each team member knowing exactly what they are doing and where. I imagine there’s less waste too.
We experienced how efficient the system is first hand as we had the opportunity to go into the kitchen and assemble our own Big Mac! Of course, you need to be properly dressed, so we were provided with caps, aprons and, most exciting of all, name badges (with all the stars!).
We all washed our hands ready to prepare our burgers and then lined up to watch a professional at work. Chris has been leading the team at this particular branch for a couple of years and he works very closely with Sarah and the rest of her team to ensure top-quality service is provided to every customer.
The process of assembling a Big Mac is very precise; each element has its own little place in the work area, all in the order in which it goes on to the burger. A squirt of sauce, a pinch of onion, enough lettuce that it shows at the sides… It should take approximately 35 seconds to assemble a Big Mac from start to finish (including 17 seconds to toast the bun), so your food really is hot when it reaches you.
The reason that the cooking and assembling process is more efficient is that there is a new ordering method being introduced – you may have noticed it in your usual restaurant.
The ‘kiosk’ is a touch-screen way of allowing the customer to select what they want to order without any of the usual pressure you feel when ordering at the counter. I know whenever I go in, I stand at the counter, looking up at the huge menu and its vast choice, struggling to decide what to have while the queue grows behind me. I go in feeling all adventurous and end up saying, “er… a McChicken Sandwich meal please.” Every. Single. Time. With the kiosk, the entire menu is at your fingertips – literally – and you can take your time browsing through the different types of meal.
But the best bit? It tells you all the ingredients and nutritional information, so, for those with allergies and intolerances, or for those, like me, who are carefully watching their weight (ahem!), you can make an informed choice about what you eat. There are several items on the menu that are 500 calories or less and there is so much to choose from that you could eat there every day for a month and have something different each time! Even though you spend longer ordering using the kiosk, it actually feels quicker!
And, the even better bit? You can customise your order! Don’t like those pesky gherkins most people pick off? Leave them out! Don’t want mayo? No problem. Not a fan of onion breath? That’s ok, you can choose not to have it on. Because the meals are assembled after ordering, they can be made up to your exact specification. Fab!
And, the really, really best bit? They now do table service! No more struggling to keep the kids from running around while you’re ordering and waiting, forgetting your straws and serviettes, or having to go back for dips. When you order at the kiosk, you will be asked if you’d like table service and, if so, which ‘zone’ you are sitting in. Then, within minutes, your order arrives at your table complete with dips, straws and serviettes and you haven’t had to stress and your kids haven’t run amok. Or is that just mine? This makes the dining experience much more personal, and more like a traditional ‘restaurant’.
It was really interesting to learn more about McDonald’s from Sarah and the team. It’s always been one of those places you take for granted somewhat; it’s always been there and it has its uses in desperate times, but I never really gave much thought into how it has evolved over the years (probably because I always have that same McChicken Sandwich meal!). While we sat and filled our faces with our lovingly-crafted Big Macs, Sarah told us some more about the new burger range that is launching.
The ‘Signature Collection’ is a range of ‘high-end’ burgers, if you will, using succulent, fat burgers and brioche buns. Launching in 150 restaurants initially, it is anticipated that it will roll out to all restaurants by next autumn, so keep a look out!
For more information about your new look McDonald’s, visit the website here.
This post is sponsored by McDonald’s, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Sarah and the team for a fab afternoon in their restaurant. I had a great time learning more about the business and meeting new bloggers, even if we did get some stares from the customers as we walked around in our aprons taking photos!