So, one of the local McDonald's stores just installed the 'Create Your Taste' kiosks I posted about a while ago. I decided, seeing as I was driving past, to stop in and check it out. The kiosk was unsurprisingly popular--they'd been set up a couple of weeks ago and there had been a local advertising campaign--but, thankfully, there were a half dozen of them. There was a staff member standing by to assist with any confusion in the process. Presumably the software is being streamlined. It didn't take anywhere near as long to order as the article I'd read suggested. Probably not much longer than waiting in line and playing a normal order at a fast food establishment. There are some quirks in the software, though ... it works but the on-screen menu isn't as well designed as it could be -- i.e. when ordering fries, drinks and other items. The design wasn't overtly terrible, tho'. The only thing that was slightly confusing was a screen that popped up asking me to select my 'location number'. Now, McDonald's doesn't put numbers on tables ... and even if they did, well, you order before you sit, right? Turns out, there was a supply of locators (mine is half-visible the first photo) stuck to the side of the kiosk. This wasn't immediately obvious. You take locator, punch its the number into the kiosk and the staff then use the locator to find you. In addition to being able to order these burgers on a takeaway basis (although presumably not via the drive through window) was an option, there was an option to not bother with using a locator. I assume in that case you'd need to wait at the counter. \\
Anyway, before moving onto the burger itself, some tidbits about the kiosk (which may or may not apply if/when this product is introduced Stateside/elsewhere):
- You can, seemingly, order anything from the McDonald's menu via this kiosk. It's not just limited to the 'Create Your Taste' offerings.
- In addition to being able to create burger (choosing from three-or-so kinds of bun or opting out of buns altogether, choosing the meat, adding extras like bacon [crisp rashers or shortcut], selecting vegetable-based fillings, choosing condiments, etc) you can choose several pre-designed burgers (sexed up cheeseburgers and the like). With a whole lot of people waiting, I didn't want to take the time to find out if you could, say, tinker with classic offerings like the Big Mac or Quarter Pounder.
- You are not obligated to pay at the kiosk and/or are fearful of the day when the fast food experience is entirely automated, Jetson's/Skynet-style. If you really like waiting in queues you're free to pay at the register.
My order wasn't overly exciting ...
Apologies for the shitty, iPhone 3-quality photo. The receipt is illegible:
- Brioche bun
- Angus patty (no option, so far as I could discern, to choose a 'normal' McDonald's patty or even a chicken patty--could be wrong on the latter, tho')
- Crisp bacon (the only addition I made that cost extra)
- 'Whole leaf' lettuce
- Lengthways-sliced pickles
- Colby Jack cheese
- Chipotle aioli and normal aioli (I didn't realise the latter was selected by default)
- Red onion
- Caramelised onion
For sides I stuck to the usual fare of Coke and fries.
The burger itself is reasonably well presented, not that the photo is as flattering as it could be
It sort of ticks the 'gourmet burger' boxes one-by-one: a wooden board, fries in a mini fryer basket, fake newspaper (newsprint-free, etc). This is reflected in the toppings and condiments you can add to the burgers.
Aside from shifting them from a red carton to the basket, the fries are the normal McDonald's kind of fry. The drink, not pictured, is served in the usual waxed cardboard cup. The burger itself was a mixed success for McD's, in my book. The bun and the 'gourmet' fillings were all very good. The bacon was crisp but not burnt. The lettuce was, well, a whole leaf of lettuce--as it said on the tin--as opposed to the mushy shredded stuff. The duelling/dual aiolis were as rich as anything you'd get in a normal 'gourmet' burger. The 'problem' was the patty. Now, I don't know if Angus patties are available in the US--I would imagine they are--but in the US McDonald's has two or three Angus burgers on their normal menu. They're not very good. They're thick and dry and a bit sad. Now, I'm not expecting some kid out the back to the hand-grinding/hand-forming small batches of fancy pants burger patties ... but considering the surprisingly high quality of the rest of the burger McDonald's need to step up their game on the meat front. Especially when you consider the price.
Ah. Yes. The price. That's a sticking point. See, in Melbourne, I can go to a food truck (yeah, it's a truck--but McDonald's is, well, McDonald's) called Mr Burger and get a very good cheeseburger for ~$10. A local establishment charges about the same for most of its burgers. That's about the going rate for most decent burgers in Melbourne. You'll get a few burgers well above that (particularly if you're eating in some lavish and/or trendy place in the city) and a few below, but yeah ... for context, a Big Mac bundled with small fries and a small drink weighs in at about $6. Now, I'm not expecting a $6 custom burger--I think $10 is reasonable--but my (medium-sized) meal worked out at some $16. That's slightly dearer than what I'd pay for a burger, fries and Coke--a like-for-like comparison--at the local place that actually has a decent beef patty.
Unless I hear that McDonald's has started to offer better patties to go with these high end burgers, I doubt I'd bother again ... even tho' I liked the rest of the package. The patty's just too significant a component to drop the ball on.