McDonald’s is cleaning up its burger act.
Today, the fast-food giant, which has been on a journey to improve the quality of its food, said its line of seven classic burgers — the core of its menu — no longer contain artificial ingredients.
The one exception: the pickle, which McDonald’s said customers can skip.
The following burgers at the chain’s roughly 14,000 restaurants in the United States are affected: The hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, McDouble, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Big Mac. With the change, McDonald’s said nearly two-thirds of its burgers and sandwiches contain no artificial preservatives, artificial flavors and added colors from artificial sources.
To reach the goal, the Chicago-based chain challenged its suppliers to remove artificial ingredients from the American cheese, Big Mac Special Sauce, the regular bun, the Quarter Pounder sesame seed bun, and the Big Mac Bun.
“It has been a little bit of an effort. We’ve been working on this for over a year,” said McDonald’s USA president Chris Kempczinski.
The one-third of the menu not covered includes the Egg McMuffin, Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, the Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles, the Filet-O-Fish and several of the Signature Crafted sandwiches.
Kempczinski said there’s no specific timeline for reformulating those menu items. Like the fresh beef initiative, which only applies to the larger patties on the Quarter Pounder and Signature Crafted burgers, not the smaller ones on sandwiches such as the hamburger and the Big Mac, Kempczinski said big menu changes take time.
“These things don’t happen in one fell swoop. They happen in a series of moves,” he said during a Wednesday morning conference call with national media.
Kempczinski declined to reveal the capital investment made to overhaul the core sandwich and burger ingredients.
“The cost on this are minimal. It’s not zero cost. We’re just going to absorb that within our pricing architecture,” he said.
As far as raising menu prices, he said, that is “ultimately” up to the franchisees.
He called the clean effort a milestone in the company’s journey to improve the quality of its food and change the perception consumers have on the menu.
Since CEO Steve Easterbrook took over the company in early 2015, McDonald’s has added all-day breakfast, introduced a Signature Crafted Recipe line of burgers, added table service, and introduced fresh, never frozen, beef patties to its legacy Quarter Pounder sandwich, as well as the signature burgers.
“This is a customer expectation,” Kempczinski said. “Clearly customers are having an elevated expectation around food quality.”
The brand’s evolution also has included modernizing hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S., a redesign that includes curbside pickup locations, double drive-thrus, contemporary furnishings, self-serve kiosks and Uber Eats pick-up counters. In August, the chain said the company and its franchisees will be investing $6 billion to upgrade restaurants by 2020.
Kempczinski said consumers are noticing a difference.
“We do believe it is improving our customer perception of McDonald’s,” he said.
For the second quarter ended June 30, same-store sales at U.S. stores rose by 2.6 percent. The results marked the 12th consecutive quarter of positive comparable sales for the chain.
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