McDonald’s Attempt to Shrug Off Fast Food Label

09/17/2014

McDonald’s Attempt to Shrug Off Fast Food Label

Americans have continued to be very vocal about the need for healthier choices when eating; however, this has not stopped them from eating the unhealthy menu options that are offered in most fast food chains. In fact, according to the latest Gallup poll 80% of all Americans are eating fast food once a month and almost half are eating fast food on a weekly basis. Fast food has been a big part of the American diet for a long time. So much so that even although we know that it is not very good for us we are still unable to break the habit of grabbing a burger and fries on the way home after work. The poll showed that 76% of Americans are well aware of the health implications that are linked to fast food. However, what was surprising is that most of these responses were made up of the people who also said they were eating fast food an average of once per week.

This comes at a time when arguably the most well know fast food chain in the world is attempting to shed their fast food image. McDonald’s is attempting to ditch the fast food label in favour of ‘good food served fast’. In order to achieve this the fast food chain are introducing new menu options including fresh fruit, egg white McMuffin and the introduction of cucumber as an ingredient for the first time in the chain’s history.

Good Food Served Fast

In celebration of the changes, a special dinner was hosted in New York City where bloggers and media personal were served a meal prepared by celebrity chefs using only ingredients found in McDonald’s kitchens! The meal kicked off with Kung Pao Chicken as an appetizer created using chicken McNuggets and sweet and sour sauce. This was quickly followed by slow cooked beef served with Gnocchi made out of fries. The grand finale was a Pumpkin Spiced ‘Biznut’ – a biscuit and doughnut hybrid created using McDonald’s biscuit mix and served with an improvised fruit sauce made from smoothie mix.

While these dishes are not intended to appear on the McDonald’s menu they did make the point that McDonald’s need not be known for offering cheap and unhealthy food. It is clear that the fast food chain is attempting to alter public perception of the brand by reaching out to them via the ‘influencers’ i.e. the bloggers and the journalists. With more and more Americans becoming aware of what sort of food they are eating, if these influencers will write about McDonald’s as a source of good food rather than fast food then there is greater possibility that they will eat it more often.

Healthier Choices Rolled Out

There has been no great fanfare surrounding this change of image. The dinner in New York was very much a stealth marketing campaign and the menu changes have be very subtle. In the last year and a half McDonald’s has introduced the egg white McMuffin and a new Chicken Salad Wrap containing cucumber. In addition to this, salad has become an alternative side offered in place of fries if the customer so chooses. In the next few months it is planned to offer mandarins in Happy Meals with a view to trialing other types of fruit if this is successful.

One thing is certain, if past attempts are anything to go by McDonald’s looks set to have a tough battle on its hands if it is to shake the current perceptions of the fast food brand. Salads were first introduced onto the menu around ten years ago and despite a number of marketing plans they still only account for under 3% of sales in McDonald’s outlets. Just a year ago the chain was forced to ditch the premium Angus burger and the Fruit & Walnut salad citing that customers were not willing to pay the $5 price tag on those items for fast food. The key issue here is that consumers struggle to associate McDonald’s or any other fast food chain for that matter as a place to get quality food. This could have a strong connection to the fact that the prices are very low. In recent years McDonald’s have tried to introduce healthier items such as yoghurt parfait and a variety of salad options, but it seems that rather than these healthy items what consumers are looking for is meat that is raised without the use of antibotics and organic produce. In short, they want cleaner food not necessarily healthier food!

The irony is that McDonald’s is well known not just in the fast food industry but in the food industry as a whole for imposing very high standards on their suppliers to ensure good quality food. It is also known for its freshness due to the high turn over of stock in a McDonald’s kitchen. CEO Don Thompson explained that,’the produce and the products that we have at breakfast and across the menu are fresher than – no disrespect intended – what most of you have in your refrigerators.’ However, despite these assurances of quality people still perceive the brand as low quality thanks to cheap prices! It really is a catch 22 situation with people assuming cheap food is poor quality but being unwilling to pay more for premium fast food items.

McDonald’s are first to admit that the public have a poor view of their food. Director of Culinary Innovation Dan Coudreaut stated in an interview last year that ‘a lot of our guests don’t believe our food is real’. Only time will tell if McDonald’s will be able to shed its current image or if future McDonald’s dinner events in other cities will be of any help.

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