Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced that it was partnering with the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in a commitment to provide more nutrition-minded choices in its top 20 markets. Representatives from the mega-chain came to New York City on Sept. 26 to promote the partnership and update the media, nutrition community and franchisees on their latest initiatives.
Restaurant Business had a chance to chat briefly with CIA grad Dan Coudreaut, executive chef and VP of culinary innovation, about what’s happening with McDonald’s menu.
RB: What trends are impacting menu development at McDonald’s these days?
DC: Global flavors: Consumers are exposed to more ingredients and big flavors, as well as ethnic ingredients, and we work to mainstream these for the McDonald’s audience.
Local ingredients: With almost 35,000 McDonald’s locations worldwide, local sourcing is a natural. But this trend isn’t only about sourcing locally; people want more transparency. They want to know where their food comes from and we have to continue to think about that. In Canada, our stores encourage transparency through their “Our food, your questions” initiative.
Customization: People have a huge desire to personalize their food. Although we don’t publicize this because it would slow down the line, patrons can customize any menu item at McDonald’s. On a burger, for example, they can ask for double lettuce and no tomato.
Portion size: This is a big focus of ours, as we work toward offering healthier options to our customers.
RB: Why did you decide to put chicken wings on the menu?
DC: The Mighty Wings recipe actually came from Hong Kong McDonald’s. We liked the idea of a spicy, crispy chicken wing for football season. The wings are a proprietary product developed with one of our suppliers, and we’ll keep them on the menu this fall until the supply runs out.
RB: Do you regularly work with your suppliers to develop menu items?
DC: Yes. In addition to our four-member culinary team, we rely on the corporate chefs from our supplier partners to develop proprietary products. Our team works closely with these chefs, and there’s lots of input from both sides before a menu item is finalized. Tyson, Simplot, Keystone and OSI are a few of the corporate chefs we work with on the supply side.
RB: Is R&D focusing on any one daypart?
DC: We have to make sure all dayparts are covered, to take care of all the “valleys” in the day as well as the peaks. We have the lion’s share of the breakfast market, and we’re trying to build up some of the other time periods, including snacking. Kids’ meals are something we’re always looking at as well.
RB: Do you bounce your menu ideas off the public at all?
DC: Definitely. We have a global advisory council that gives us valuable feedback. And we also seek advice from our customers. Mommy bloggers, for example, are a group that has become very influential, and we bring them into headquarters to hear what they have to say.