More than you ever wanted to know about McDonalds

A McDonalds manager offered an ‘Ask Me Anything’ thread on Reddit a couple of days ago.  He fielded lots of questions, and he (and other McDonalds employees who chimed in) had some very interesting responses.  Here’s a brief selection.

Q:  Being an employee who is more familiar with where the food comes from, would you consider it better or worse than most people think?

A:  The items marketed as ‘healthy options’ are worse than you’d think. Deep fried chicken goes into the wraps, the veggie patties are deep fried, and the salad dressings are filled with rubbish.  The meat however, is good and is freshly grilled. It’s 100% local beef flank and doesn’t even use any binders like egg or rusk that you’d find even in the ‘good brands’ from the supermarket. The milk is from ‘organic’ farms. The breakfast menu uses real free range eggs. The chicken however, is pre-cooked and breaded before arriving to us frozen from Thailand.

Q:  What is the largest order you have ever received?

A:  We sometimes get entire schools of children coming in. We seat about 300 and we can have one order of 200+ kids come in. The worst thing is they don’t know what they want until they get to the counter. We once had an order of 200 veggie deli sandwiches without a warning (they’re the more inconvenient item to make, along with filet-o-fish). Panic in the kitchen!

Q:  I just noticed that, locally at least, the dollar menu has disappeared. Was it cutting into store profits that much to sell McDoubles or Sausage McMuffins for a dollar?

A:  I believe part of the issue is that the dollar menu is what’s called a “loss leader” in business. It’s cheap, often so cheap that the company makes very little (or sometimes even loses) money on it, but it gets you in the door and hopefully you will buy other items (like soda or coffee) that have larger profit margins while you are there.  What fast food places didn’t expect, and are now raising prices or removing the dollar menu to compensate for this, is that during a recession and in poorer areas, people got smart and ONLY order the dollar items now. So that hope of making money on the higher profit margin items didn’t work out because of consumer buying trends.

Q:  Can you confirm the validity of the “Secret Menu”? Also, what is the one item you would recommend customers do not order?

A:  You can order from the ‘Secret Menu’. Just like with any of our sandwiches, you can add, remove or change ingredients by special request. These are called ‘grill orders’ (i.e. Big Mac no pickle).  The items on the ‘secret menu’ weren’t invented by anyone officially at McDonald’s, it’s just a random persons guide to burgers you could potentially ‘hack’ at McDonald’s.  Order one and the workers might not know it by name (i.e. Land, Air and Sea burger or the McGangBang) but if you explain what it is, and are willing to pay for all the ingredients, it’s just another ‘grill order’ that we can make up.  DON’T order… the grilled chicken. It’s horrible frozen chicken that we defrost and steam and it’s a bit gelatinous.

Q:  What do you think is at the core of McDonald’s problems (massive sales losses and store closings) lately?

A:  I honestly think McDonald’s is out of date. It’s the biggest and most widespread of all the fast food joints but somehow stays a step behind the competition. It’s like Microsoft. How come outlook and internet explorer are the worst but from the most widespread company?

Sub-A:  If Microsoft sold onion rings, I think I might buy more of their products.

Sub-sub-A:  No way, man. The last thing I want is a red onion ring of death.

There are many more at the link.  Entertaining reading.  I have to admit, the thought of a ‘red onion ring of death’ has a certain finesse to it . . .

Commenting on the discussion, the Independent offers these definitions of some of the items on the ‘Secret Menu’.

Secret Menu items include ‘The Land, Sea and Air’ which combines beef, fish, and chicken in one monstrous burger. It is a Big Mac with both a Fillet-o-Fish and a chicken burger placed inside it.

The ‘Monster Mac’ is a BigMac with eight burgers in it and more of a challenge than a choice. You can wash it down with a Neopolitan Shake – a three flavour milshake of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

The ‘McGangBang’, a McChicken Sandwich inside a Double Cheeseburger, is the most well-known “secret” order.

Again, more at the link.



  1. McDonald's is losing money and customers because it takes too damn long to get anything. The surest way to fail in business is to try to be all things to all people. In this case they're offering far too many choices of far too many products and it's costing the most important facet of *fast* food – time. Like Domino's Pizza, they've violated the KISS Rule and got away from what made them worldwide and filthy rich by expanding their menus in pursuit of ever-smaller facets of the market.

    I worked for Domino's in the early '90s, eventually going into the management program. In the learning I noted that once the company was well-grounded and began to expand, it did expand – worldwide, even – every year for about 25 years. The menu was pizza and, after a few years, soft drinks.

    The menu was expanded to include sub sandwiches and salads in about 1988 or '89 (it's been a while and I can't be arsed to look it up), delivery times went from "30 minutes or it's free" to "30 minutes or $3 off" to "we'll be there after while, whenever we can get it there", and the following year was the first since expansion began that the company closed and didn't reopen stores and ended the year with fewer than at the beginning.

    AFAIK there is *still* no one at corporate HQ who will even entertain the possibility that there is any correlation between the two.

  2. Shell, this is what happens when you let greasy haired sprogs with Marketing MBAs get their hands on things. I worked for a large consumer food company for over twenty years and in that time certain product lines (80%) were sacrosanct.
    The company was bought and in a mad rush to capitalize on their new acquisition, "line extensions" were introduced by the new owners. So now for example, you can have every flavor Oreo you never wanted. This in the end translates into very little volume growth, huge operational expense, increased stock carrying and placement costs and confused customers.

    And the greasy haired sprogs with MMBAS? Why, they have moved on, after chalking up another exciting episode to add to their C.V.

  3. I figure the McDonald's formula is "predictably mediocre food, cheap, fast, any time."
    It sometimes happens that I'm on the road, having had breakfast at maybe 0500, and by the time 0930 rolls around I'm craving a burger. McDonald's doesn't do burgers in the morning anymore! They morph into McCafe, and only serve breakfast stuff! (Which is decidedly sub-mediocre, at that.)
    And it's not all that cheap, and there are other chains now that do the burger thing better and in some cases all day.
    So now when I'm looking for an early lunch (not second breakfast), it's not the Golden Arches that I look for. And, even at other times… well, really, there are usually better options.
    I suspect that the era of "the one trusted boring place to stop for lunch along the Interstate" is long gone, and that McD's will have a heck of a time finding a new niche.

  4. Yeah, the meat in Texas McD's is markedly better than the meat in CA. Still ain't Whataburgers…

  5. MickyD's ran out of quality about 30 years ago.

    They can't even do simple things like serve their yogurt&fruit cup correctly. Maybe 80% of the time the fruit is still frozen. If you set it aside to thaw, your meal is finished long before it is ready to eat.

  6. "… greasy haired sprogs with Marketing MBAs…", indeed, Timbo, they are the bane of business now, and precisely who is to blame for what has become of Wal Mart since Mr. Sam died. The man became a billionaire doing business the way he did and he wasn't even cold before the said sprogs told each other, "Well, the Old Man's not in the way anymore. Now we can turn this place into a *real* moneymaker." Everything, and I mean that literally, that is wrong with Wal Mart can and should be laid at the feet of those who think they learned all they need to know in "college".

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