WESLEY CHAPEL — Who's up for building a sexy new Quarter Pounder, the longtime blue-collar thug on the McDonald's menu? You know, pretty that sucker up a bit. Maybe some guac, garlic sauce, caramelized onions, all on a lettuce wrap and presented to you via perky tableside service.
After suffering severe revenue losses lately, the Golden Arches needs to make a move, and they think their new "Create Your Taste" reinvention campaign, one aimed at competing with fast-casual DIY restaurants a la Chipotle, could be the ticket.
At this test location in Pasco County — the only one in Florida and one of just 20 in the country — McDonald's has set up five kiosks (think giant iPads) that allow customers to re-imagine their own version of the QP with new "premium" ingredients.
The regular sandwich is $3.59; the Create Your Taste one starts at $5.09, with the only extra charges being another meat patty or thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, both for a dollar upcharge.
"We needed to do something different," says John Frost, the co-owner and operator of this McDonald's plus six others in the state. Revenue and net income for the McDonald's company as whole have declined in the same year for the first time since 1981. Customer visits are down, and in February, sales were down 4 percent compared to a year ago.
"We've lost track of our customers," Frost says. "This allows them the freedom to build the burger they want."
The touch-screen is easy to use and kind of fun, too. You build your QP piece by piece:
* Beef patty (or two)
* Bread: ciabatta roll, artisan roll or lettuce wrap.
* Cheese: sharp white cheddar, pepper jack or American.
* Toppings (you can choose as many as you like): guacamole, sliced jalapenos, grilled mushrooms, crisp red onions, caramelized grilled onions, chili lime tortilla strips, ripe tomato, green leaf lettuce, crinkle cut pickles.
* Sauces: Big Mac special sauce, spicy mayo, creamy garlic sauce, sweet BBQ, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard.
If you're not into creating, there are three "specialty builds" you can choose that blend the various ingredients: SoCal Style (includes guac, tortilla strips), Hot All Over (pepper jack, jalapenos) and Grill Thriller (bacon, onions, mushrooms, BBQ sauce).
Me? I wanted to build, baby. I went with a patty topped with grilled onions, red onions (that's right, double onions), bacon, pepper jack, guacamole, spicy mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato.
I added fries and a medium Coke.
Verdict: It tasted like a McDonald's hamburger — but a pretty tasty, albeit messy, one, with the spicy mayo and guac especially standing out. I used my credit card at the kiosk, but you have the option of paying at the counter. You can also order a "normal" lunch or dinner menu off the kiosks (no breakfast yet), but where's the fun in that?
The tableside delivery time (they find you via an electronic locator) is between six and 10 minutes; mine showed up in about 5, but it was borderline breakfast time, so the kiosks weren't hopping. (People have been tipping servers, but Frost said gratuities are "respectfully declined." If customers insist, the money is donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.)
One diner, the aptly named Ronald Marquez, said he has been eating at McDonald's for "30 to 40" years. He hasn't been crazy about the menu getting busier and busier lately, but he was digging Create Your Taste.
"This is the best hamburger I've ever had here," said the landscaping manager, who said his creation, which included the crunchy tortilla strips and guacamole, was like "nachos."
"This is a great change for them," Marquez says. "I think it was time."
Whether Create Your Taste is a success or not remains to be seen. Frost says there is no timeline for the testing period, either here or nationally. If you want to Frankenstein up the Quarter Pounder of your dreams — or just dare your buddies to make a goliath sandwich — head on over to 27643 State Highway 54 W, Wesley Chapel.
Let me know if you get the lettuce wrap. I didn't have the nerve.
6. "Dallas Penn is rolling over in his grave." In response to Reply # 0
If you want a good laugh, go to youtube and search for Internet Celebrities. Dallas Penn and his partner Rafi Kam if I'm spelling that right have done the custom burger jobs on McDonald's offerings in that past.
I thought this post was going to be about them offering kale in the future. Think I read that somewhere on these here interwebs. What a crazy world. I still think McDonald's will find someway to inject beef in the kale somehow knowing them though.