The Golden Arches is now selling lobster rolls. So what other fancy foods can it deliver fast and cheap?
What's remarkable about the McDonald's lobster roll, which has returned to restaurants in the Northeast this summer after a decade-long absence, isn't just the novelty of the fancy seafood sandwich at a fast food joint.
It's that it costs a mere $ 7.99, a bargain price relative to nearly anybody else selling lobster rolls, whose prices can often be easily double that.
It hints at perhaps McDonald's greatest strength: the company has a huge and extremely efficient supply chain that lets it buy food at lower prices than other restaurants, and capitalize on swings in commodity prices. And as its lobster roll illustrates, this advantage doesn't just extend to burgers.
McDonald's has often offered items with ingredients far fancier than Big Mac sauce, particularly in other countries. It makes you wonder what other fine dining dishes the chain could make mainstream in the U.S.–if it had the will.
It has tried, and failed, with similar experiments in the past, for example testing crab cakes in some stores in the early 2000s. Recent reviews of the new lobster roll haven't all been great either — Eater.com described it as “some awful sort of seafood salad,” though Boston.com argued that for $ 7.99, it's “not too shabby.” But there's always hope.
With that in mind, we spoke to some creative culinary industry types about the kind of things McDonald's could take from the land of tablecloths and wine menus to the wider world of drive-thrus and ketchup packets. Here are some ideas that could reshape the way we think about fast food.
Just imagine it all in take-out bags.
Faruk Ateş / Via Flickr: kurafire
McDonald's has experimented with truffle sauce in the past, using it in the Black Burger in Hong Kong, which cost about $ 2.27. Why not truffle fries? The chain is already testing shake-on seasonings — like ranch, chipotle BBQ and garlic parmesan — for its fries in certain markets.
There are artificial truffle flavor options that a manufacturer could turn to for price, consistency, and stability, “but there are also ways to extend the real product in affordable ways — infused oils or 'dust' made with less expensive forms [like] peelings, trim, less costly varieties,” says Scott Allmendinger, who works on menu development projects as director of consulting at The Culinary Institute of America.