The McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese is almost a staple to the Golden Arches menu. I have fond memories of being a child of the 1980’s, going to McDonald’s after church or after one of my numerous after school sports for dinner. When I was older and not so much the wiser, the Quarter Pounder was my hangover cure-all. It had a very specific taste and more meat than their regular hamburger or cheeseburger, so it was always my go-to menu choice for those morning-after headaches.
In March of last year, McDonald’s announced that they were switching the Quarter Pounder to fresh beef, cooked right when ordered, as a part of a broader commitment to bring customers more craveable and delicious food offerings. I was incredibly excited to hear this news and I recently had the chance to make my own fresh beef Quarter Pounder at a McDonald’s in Seattle!
Sitting down with Seattle and Bellevue franchise owner, David Santillanes, and with Chris and Heidi from the McDonald’s corporate deployment department, I learned more than I ever knew about the restaurant and the way it’s operated. It was so encouraging to listen to them speak about their products and how excited they were to bring the new launches to changing consumer tastes. My biggest take away from the experience is that McDonald’s listens to its customers (three words: all day breakfast).
The new Fresh Beef Quarter Pounder is exactly that, fresh, hot and juicy. Six months prior to me sitting down with David, Chris and Heidi, McDonald’s began training all of its employees on how to cook the fresh beef patties. As you can imagine, the roll out required a lot of preparation!
Why the change? It’s simple – McDonald’s listened. Customers wanted a juicier, hotter beef patty – so McDonald’s went to their suppliers and asked, “How do we do this?”
When Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s in 1955, all the burgers were made with fresh beef. When demand for his burgers became too great, he had to switch to frozen patties to feed the masses. With advances in technology and changing consumer tastes, McDonald’s is now going back to its beginnings.
Listening to the customer didn’t just start with using fresh beef. Have you noticed your McDonald’s chicken the last few years? McDonald’s now uses antibiotic and preservative-free chicken! And think about this – McDonald’s is a giant in the food industry and because of the changes they make to their menu, their suppliers have to change the way they distribute. That domino effect completely changes the supply chain and others in the food industry follow suit. McDonald’s enables positive change because of their scale – a fast food company changing the way the food industry operates for the better. I know it seems unreal when you think about large corporations, but it is happening right now!
McDonald’s has even committed to having sustainably grown beef by 2030 and are working with an environmental group to make sure that happens! Speaking of sustainable, did you know that McDonald’s started using compostable straws six months ago – even before it became required in Seattle? They are ahead of the game and committed to environmental responsibility.
Alright, back to Fresh Beef Quarter Pounders! How does a fast food giant go from frozen patties to fresh patties and teaching their thousands of employees about food prep and food safety?
It starts with the franchise owner-operators and their commitment to the new equipment, refrigerators and providing enhanced training to their employees. McDonald’s corporate staff (i.e. Chris and Heidi) have to come up with the “how to,” food safety standards and training standards, and then the owner-operator (i.e. David) has to have the passion and commitment to train their staff! Every single employee has to be on board for these long-term changes and McDonald’s corporate gives everyone ample time to learn everything they need to know before it goes out to the public.
With fresh beef, you have to maintain food safety and avoid cross contamination. This is where supervisors and managers come in and answer the questions employees may have as to why they have to do something a certain way. This total buy-in helps everyone understand how to make a final product that is outstanding. Once the crew tastes what they produce, the full commitment is in.
With all of this in mind, I had the chance to go into the McDonald’s kitchen and see first-hand how the new Quarter Pounders are made. The meat is kept in a refrigerator next to the stove top. Every time a customer orders a Quarter Pounder, a cow bell rings and the process begins. It was fascinating to watch my own personal Quarter Pounder being made to order. The cook puts the patties on the stove and then the stove top comes down. It only takes 80 seconds to fully cook the patty. Once the top comes back up, the cook puts pepper on the patty, and places it on a serving tray one at a time, which is then passed over to the next employee who dresses the burger.
I learned that Quarter Pounders are dressed in very specific ways, including that the mustard goes on before the ketchup (the order creates a specific taste), then 17-20 onions (a small handful), two large pickles (or in my case 2 large and 1 smaller one – this equates to having the taste of a pickle per bite of the burger) and then two slices of cheese, placed in a way to create a star. The burger is then placed in a wrap, boxed up and voila! My very own Quarter Pounder was ready to be eaten!
And now for the drum roll….how did it taste?
Absolutely delicious! Hot and juicy with a kick of peppery flavors, I was hooked by the first bite. David even gave me extra large napkins to use, and I needed them! I recommend to just start eating this in a McDonald’s restaurant so you can literally eat it fresh. No need to order through the drive thru and take it home or to the office. You are going to want to eat it immediately. It’s that hot, it’s that juicy, it’s that fresh. Trust me.
If you haven’t been to McDonald’s in awhile, you might want to go check them out again. Experience the future of fast food, right here in the Pacific Northwest!