One of the major selling points of In-N-Out’s famous burgers (and one of the contributing factors limiting their rapid franchise growth) has always been the company’s commitment to using fresh, never-frozen ground beef in their signature burgers. And in recent years, competing chains like Wendy’s and Five Guys have gotten the message: Ground beef that hasn’t been frozen simply tastes better, and customers tend to gravitate toward food that tastes good.
McDonald’s is finally making efforts to figure out how to jump on the “fresh, never frozen” burger wagon, by expanding their tests of fresh beef deliveries to nearly 400 stores in North Texas. The company has already successfully rolled out fresh beef deliveries to test locations in the Dallas area, as well as to 75 locations in Oklahoma.
The fresh beef patties will be used in McDonald’s Quarter Pounder burgers, including the Quarter Pounder with cheese, the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, the Quarter Pounder Deluxe, and the Bacon Clubhouse Burger.
Due to the number of restaurants, McDonald’s faces a problem in its efforts to bring fresh ground beef to its 14,000 stores, compared to the 6,000 Wendy’s locations in service nationwide, or the 313 locations operated by In-N-Out. For these smaller operations, delivering fresh meat to each of their stores is hardly an issue. But for McDonald’s, who historically has relied on a complicated network of suppliers and distributors to grind, freeze, and distribute frozen beef patties to each of its stores, making the switch to fresh will require a reconsideration of the company’s entire supply chain.
In addition, while a commitment to fresh beef may introduce better flavor, an improved image, and shorter cook times, it also raises concerns about food safety.
“I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly,” one franchisee wrote in response to a survey by Instinet analyst Mark Kalinowski in July.
Though the potential for bacterial growth is higher when meat is kept at 40 degrees or above, the good will likely outweigh the bad, at least in terms of brand perception (since “flavorful, high-quality beef” isn’t the first phrase that springs to mind, when discussing McDonald’s cheeseburgers). As another franchisee noted, “Many customers perceive unfrozen to be better for you. Perception is everything.”
Lead photo: Flickr/rob_rob2001