McDonald's goes 'artisanal' with fancy sandwiches

The new sandwiches McDonald's introduced this month are a big leap from the Big Mac.

The sandwiches -- Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon and Maple Bacon Dijon -- come with buttermilk crispy chicken, 100% beef quarter-pound patty or artisan grilled chicken. The trio marks the chain's nationwide launch of its Signature Crafted Recipes line, which is more upscale -- and more expensive -- than menu items usually associated with McDonald's.

Yes, the Golden Arches are going artisanal.

“Signature establishes a premium range on our menu showcasing high-quality burger and chicken products with more food-forward ingredients," said Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald's USA. "We need to bring more food news like this, in order to appeal to Millennial customers, who are seeking new taste experiences. You should expect us to step up our level of menu innovation in the U.S. in the years ahead.”

Competition in the fast food world is fierce, so chains are doing whatever they can to get consumers in the door. The lines between once-sacred cuisine types is gone -- from Burger King's burger burrito hybrid, the Whopperito, to Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza.

McDonald's move is the "Panera-ization" of the more down-market chain, known more for value and convenience than creative flavor combinations.

"Fast-casual has stolen market share from the fast food segment," Jack Russo, a senior analyst who covers McDonald's at Edward Jones, said. "When you see that's a competitor, you think, 'Well, we can’t completely transform who we are, but we can steal some pages from their playbook.'"

This is the fast food titan's attempt to snag a wider range of customers, including those willing to pay $4.99 to $5.19  for a Signature Crafted Recipes sandwich.

Russo pointed out that the fancier sandwiches can't be too great a leap from McDonald's traditional menu offerings, because they need to be made quickly and easily. An estimated 70% of the chain's business comes from drive-thru, which can't slow down to accommodate intricate recipes. And the food is made by a labor force with a high turnover rate.

"Their average check is between $5-$6. They have room to move up. They probably don’t have as much room as others, because they’re known for value," he said. "The thing is when you charge people more, it’s got to be a good product and a good experience. You're held to a higher standard.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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