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McDonald’s has sold a lot of fresh-beef burgers

The company said it sold 40 million more Quarter Pounders in the first quarter than it did a year ago.
quarter pounder
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s may not be getting more customers in the door, but those who do come in are ordering more Quarter Pounders—thanks to the shift to fresh beef a year ago.

The Chicago-based burger giant said Monday that it sold 40 million more quarter-pound burgers in the U.S. in the first quarter than it did during the same period a year ago.

Chris Kempzinski, president of McDonald’s USA, said that sales of quarter-pound burgers rose 50% in the first month after the company started making them with fresh beef in May of last year.

Sales of the burgers have been up at a sustained rate of about 30% on average in the months since then, ultimately helping the chain sell 40 million more of the burgers in the first quarter. “Our numbers speak for themselves,” Kempczinski said in a statement.

McDonald’s shift to fresh beef was a major undertaking last year, particularly coming not long after the chain’s decision to sell its breakfast items all day.

The company introduced specially designed packaging for the patties, developed dedicated kitchen utensils, added new refrigerators to maintain proper temperatures and increased the required internal temperature standard for cooked patties to safeguard against food safety issues.

The company also had to work with 3,000 independent operators who run the vast majority of the chain’s nearly 14,000 locations to train them on the process and add the equipment.

Making fresh-beef quarter-pound burgers on demand, rather than having the patties premade and held in a warmer, ensures a higher-quality product, the company says. McDonald’s argues that the sales growth of the product confirms its decision a year ago.

“We’ve proven that when we listen to customers, good things happen,” said Marion Gross, chief supply chain officer for McDonald’s in North America, in a statement.

The higher-quality quarter-pound burgers helped generate same-store sales growth that outpaced many of the chain’s competitors, including 4.5% in the first quarter. But all of that came in the form of average check, as the customers who came in bought larger orders, paid higher prices or bought more premium items.

Traffic was down about 2% in the quarter. McDonald’s has now shifted its attention to operations, focusing on more advanced equipment and speed in a bid to decrease service times and therefore increase sales.

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