McDonald’s Bringing Build-Your-Own Burger Option To 2,000 Locations

It’s been nearly 10 months since we told you about McDonald’s tiny test of a customizable burger option in a handful of its California restaurants. And in an attempt to turn around its sagging sales, the fast food megachain says it will be bringing the build-your-own concept to thousands more locations in the coming year.

USA Today reports that the plan is to expand the “Create Your Taste” program — though it’s apparently still considered a test — to McDonald’s stores in Illinois, Wisconsin, Georgia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. The expansion will add around 2,000 locations that offer the option. McDonald’s currently has more than 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. alone.

In addition to allowing customers to customize their entire sandwich — from bun to protein (the expansion will add the option of chicken) to cheese to cheese to condiments — Create Your Taste involves the use of a separate tablet-style kiosk rather than going through the normal ordering routine.

After decades of streamlining the fast food production process to minimize customers’ wait times, McDonald’s says that Create Your Taste users are going to have to sacrifice speed if they want their sandwiches custom-made. The average wait time for a burger ordered this way is around seven minutes, significantly longer than most people expect to wait for a McDonald’s burger.

While that might be tolerable for in-store customers, who can wait at a table while their food is made, the extra time could bring the drive-thru line to a dead stop.

And don’t expect comparable menu prices for your bespoke burger. At one location visited by USA Today, a customized burger with medium fries and a drink cost $8.29, while the pre-made burger meal only comes in at $5 on the regular menu.

The company, which announced this morning that its drop in same-store sales was even worse than it had predicted, believes that people will be willing to pay more and wait longer, and is hoping that the customizable sandwich approach will appeal to younger consumers who view McDonald’s food as lacking compared to competitors who offer more options and higher-quality ingredients.

“This is a big deal,” says the senior vice president of U.S. menu innovation to USA Today. “We are all under some pressure that is coming from the business picture not being where we want it to be.”

One franchisee says that the use of the kiosks is important to attracting the younger consumers.

“Millennials would much rather order from a machine than face-to-face,” he explains, though he admits that the software for the ordering app has been less than perfect.

One of the common complaints from McDonald’s franchisees is that their corporate bosses have been forcing new and expensive menu options on them. If the company decides to keep rolling out the Create Your Taste option at more eateries, you can expect some push-back from franchisees with smaller stores who don’t have the space for the additional ingredients or room for ordering kiosks.

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