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McDonald's to expand 'build your own burger' test

McDonald's
OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) - McDonald's plans to expand a test this year that lets people order customized burgers.

The world's biggest hamburger chain began testing the waters of personalized orders last year with a "build-your-own burger" concept at a location in California. In addition to its traditional menu, the restaurant in Laguna Niguel offers tablets on which people can tap out the bun, patty, cheese and toppings they want on their burgers.

Kevin Newell, U.S. brand and strategy officer for McDonald's, said in an interview that the offering is a "huge driver." Without providing specific figures on the sales impact, he said it's attracting a different type of customer and more of a dinner-time crowd.

The purpose of the expanded test is to get more data, Newell said.

"It'll be more than five, less than a hundred," he said when asked how many restaurants would be testing the menu, hewing to the company's practice of keeping planned tests tightly under wraps. But he said the additional locations will also be in Southern California.

The test reflects a push by McDonald's to adapt to the growing trend toward customization in the fast-food industry. The popularity of Chipotle and Subway, for instance, is largely due to the fact that people can dictate exactly what they want on their burritos and sandwiches.

With McDonald's, by contrast, many people know exactly what's supposed to go into its famous burgers and sandwiches. An ad jingle even once explained the makeup of a Big Mac - "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame bun."

Now, however, executives in Oak Brook, Ill., are trying to change the perception that people can't customize their orders at McDonald's.

Aside from the "build-your-own burger" test, for instance, the chain is rolling out new prep tables in the kitchens of its more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants. The table are built to accommodate many more toppings and dressings than McDonald's currently offers, suggesting the company has plans to expand its lineup of ingredients. For instance, people might be able to request jalapenos or salsa on their burgers or sandwiches at some point.

Of course, the early signs of promise for the "build-your-own burger" test in California are far from a guarantee of broader success. It could be that people are just drawn by the initial novelty of the test. The chain has already made adjustments to the test, too, such as cooking its Quarter Pounders on a flat grill instead of char-grilling them.

It's also not clear whether McDonald's would be able to translate the concept across its broad network of restaurants, in part because it requires a separate grill in the kitchen where the patties for the customized burgers are cooked in a slower fashion.

"We've got to figure out, can we do it operationally?" Newell noted.

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fernbergbear1953 February 28 2014 at 5:56 AM

In the early to mid 70s, there was a burger chain in the twin cities area of Minnesota [not sure how large they were nationally] called "Burger Chef". They operated using this idea that long ago. They did a fantastic business, and were always packed with customers. The toppings bar was fresh and varied. If I remember right, they were bought out by a bigger national chain [go figure], and closed down after they were sold. One big thing to mention here, was the fact you could order 4 different sizes of beef patties, and 3 different typs of buns besides. I might also mention, that the quality of the meat was unreal, because it was real beef without additives. You got what you paid for! I still think of that chain whenever I pass one of todays fast food burger places, because that is axactly what I do...pass them by. Would I try McDonalds if they gave this a go? NO, sorry but their reputation for quality has long ago been proven. No thanks!

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Keith February 28 2014 at 5:36 AM

The question is, will they offer real beef as an option?

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fernbergbear1953 February 28 2014 at 5:57 AM

Don`t count on it, let alone be able to find it when put onto the bun.

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Rob February 28 2014 at 5:36 AM

I don't think they have enough ingredients in the store to make a burger I would like. The ONLY reason I go to MacDonalds is for the fries and that is a crap shoot. One time I get good fresh french fries (I know, they're bad for me), and the next time they are cold and mealy.

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Constance February 28 2014 at 5:27 AM

BRING BACK YOUR STEAMY DANISH CHEESE AND APPLE...... YOUR NEW STRUDELS ARE CRAP

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jct915 February 28 2014 at 4:50 AM

But will they have gluten free buns? The first chain to do that will win.

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Jason February 28 2014 at 4:32 AM

Obviously it's already been in place with the secret menu items
Only a few employees know about the secret menu.
If you tell a cashier you want a MCgangbang and they don't know what that is, they'll look at you like you're stoned or stupid.

It's a Double cheese burger or a Bigmac and a chicken sandwich

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bdgrizcp February 28 2014 at 4:30 AM

Burger King and Roy Rogers were 'burger bar' joints at one time. Roy Rogers morphed over the years and has come and gone as Marriott Corp. first grew the brand to 600 plus stores, sold it to Hardees...to the point where there are less than 60 RRs in 6 states. BK dropped the burger bar back in th 60s. This could work though I wonder how customizing would improve anything at McD's--especially service timing, which is McD's number one mission.

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ulsternews February 28 2014 at 4:28 AM

How about a whole whole wheat hamburger roll?

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jim joanne bryan February 27 2014 at 9:17 PM

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLD DAYS WHEN THEY COOKED THEN ON A GRILL AS YOU WATCHED????? I HATE THAT WARMED OVER STEAMED TASTE!! THEY USED TOOK COOK THEMFRESH AND SLIDE THEM DOWN THE CHUTES THEY HAD,THAT WAS THE WAY WHO WAS THE IDIOT WHO SCREWED THAT UP? (BRING IT UP AND FIRE THE GUY THAT STOPPED HAVING THEM FRESH COOKED AS YOU WATCHED!!!

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sopranosly February 27 2014 at 8:37 PM

Have Your Say...I don't eat ther because the meat taste like , whats the words Im looking for, NO TASTE at all or salty no taste.....I remember when they got ther meat localy fresh daily but that was 50 years ago ...If I want a fastfood buger I stop at Wendy's there meat is a little salty to but much better and they'll make it my way A #2 with everything no tomato extra onions

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