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McDonald’s Tests a Major Menu Change That Customers May Like

The fast-food chain has had a major weakness on its menu that it has mostly ignored.



The fast-food chain has had a major weakness on its menu that it has mostly ignored.

McDonald's has always straddled the line between comfort food and low-quality cheap eats. People love the chain's hamburgers but most understand that it's more a case of familiarity than the company actually delivering good food.

We may love Chicken McNuggets and the Filet O' Fish, but we don't ask a lot of questions about how they're made. That has proven to be a winning strategy when it comes to food. Good and quality are not the same thing when it comes to fast-food burger chains.

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Nobody goes to McDonald's, Wendy's (WEN) - Get Free Report, or Restaurant Brands International's (QSR) - Get Free Report Burger King because they have the best burger. Everyone knows that Five Guys or pretty much any fast-casual sit-down chain offers a higher-quality hamburger, but people still eat at fast-food chains.

As a society, we seem to have decided that we love inferior burgers due to their familiarity. That's an exception we seem to make with food quite often. That's literally how Domino's (DPZ) - Get Free Report became the largest pizza seller in the world. It's not by having the best pizza, it's by offering a comforting product and making it very easy to get.

That's the model McDonald's embraces (Wendy's and Burger King fight that label a bit more) but it does not work in one key area. McDonald's has struggled in its efforts to compete with Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Free Report and Dunkin', largely because it has inferior coffee. McCafe, the company's name for both its coffee and its coffee business, has worked as an add-on to its beloved breakfast menu, but nobody goes to McDonald's for a coffee experience.

Now, the chain has been testing a fix that could solve that problem.

A person eats breakfast at McDonald's.

Image source: Shutterstock

Why McCafe Matters to McDonald's

McDonald's has tried to build out the McCafe brand to smooth out its business. The chains makes the majority of its sales during traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours. That's not how things work for Starbucks. At the coffee chain, customers flow in all day because coffee and pastries count as snacks and beverages can be consumed at any time.

In some McDonald's locations, a separate McCafe counter was built in order to create a sort of coffeehouse vibe. This has largely not worked partially, perhaps, because nobody wants a coffeehouse experience at McDonald's, but at least some of the blame goes to the coffee.

McDonald's offers coffee that's good enough if you are already there. It's airport coffee -- a product that's okay and meets the need, but not one you would cross the street for. The problem, at least if McDonald's wants to steal some business from Starbucks, is that the coffee giant is everywhere and it has a clearly better product.    

McDonald's Tests Cold Brew

It's unlikely that McDonald's will convince people that it's a true coffeehouse alternative. It could, however, leverage its restaurant footprint and cheaper prices over Starbucks if it offered a comparable product. The company seems to understand that too as it has been testing cold brew at select locations.

Fellow Chewer and YouTube reviewer Peep This Out! spotted the Cold Brew drinks at his local McDonald’s in the Pasadena, California area. According to Ian, McDonald’s is offering Cold Brew Coffee as well as Marble Cold Brew," ChewBoom reported.

Marble Cold Brew offers cold brew coffee mixed with chocolate and caramel syrup, along with cream, served over ice.

You can also order the cold brew black or customize it with milk, cream, and even flavored syrups.

Cold brew has become table stakes for a coffee business and it's surprising that McDonald's has waited this long to offer it. If it can establish a coffee-based product people want, that could be a massive driver for the chain (and steal business from Dunkin' and Starbucks).


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