- McDonald’s lineup of premium burgers is helping the fast-food giant’s sales numbers, it said in April.
- These premium burgers use select ingredients and are marketed as higher-quality menu options.
- We tried them all and found that they are, on the whole, a higher quality than McDonald’s classic burgers, and they have a price to match.
McDonald’s is betting on better burgers.
In the company’s most recent earnings call in April, McDonald’s CFO Kevin Ozan said that sales are being buoyed, in part, by sales of the chain’s Signature Crafted line of premium burgers, which are about $US1-2 more expensive than the rest of McDonald’s burger lineup.
The Signature Crafted line has experienced a rocky history. It started out as a highly customisable, create-your-own burger system called “Create Your Taste,” which was rolled out with the ordering kiosks in 2016. It was an ambitious part of the chain’s turnaround plan, but it never really ironed out the kinks that came with it – custom burgers slow down kitchens and complicate orders, leading to longer wait times.
McDonald’s unceremoniously dumped the program later that year, turning it into the Signature Crafted menu, which kept a handful of the most popular burger builds but nixed the customisation. As of this week, all of McDonald’s Signature Crafted burgers are made with fresh beef, not frozen. You can also order them with chicken – grilled or fried – instead of beef.
But here, we’re interested in a juicy burger. So how is this premium burger selection? If it’s giving a boost to the chain’s sales numbers, clearly there’s something to it. We decided to try the Signature Crafted burgers to see what the fuss is all about:
There are three burger “flavours” to choose from: sweet BBQ bacon, pico guacamole, and garlic white cheddar.
Let’s start with the sweet BBQ bacon burger. The stoic brioche bun is impressive, especially for McDonald’s.
The previous custom burger iteration, Create Your Taste, offered brioche buns as an option – and frankly, it was a great move. They’re much better than the normal sesame seed bun, especially when they’re toasted.
This burger has bacon, white cheddar, grilled onions, fried onions, and sweet barbecue sauce — which sounds like a lot, but actually isn’t all that much in reality.
As you can see, the bun is toasted perfectly. That’s a nice touch.
The sweet onions and sweeter BBQ sauce come together and tip everything a bit too far to the sugary side, but it’s not a deal-breaker just yet. The amount of toppings is a huge plus — it doesn’t seem as though this burger is skimped out on.
Apart from being a smidge sweet for a savoury burger, this is a wholly satisfying burger. The quality is several notches above what one expects from McDonald’s — the only thing that reminds you you’re eating at the Golden Arches is the patty, which more or less tastes the same.
Next, we have the pico guacamole burger. A version of this existed in the Create Your Taste menu, and frankly, it was hugely disappointing.
It was a sopping, gloppy nightmare oozing sub-par guacamole and so much tomato juice that it was akin to just plopping salsa in a bun.
This new incarnation is roughly the same in terms of construction, but much better in terms of quality. There’s guacamole, a much less watery pico de gallo, a ranch sauce, and cheddar — flavorful, but fairly simple.
The burger tastes remarkably fresh — the tomatoes are vibrant and firm, and the guac is a big improvement over the previous guac. The whole thing comes with a lime wedge to squeeze into the burger, which I assume is meant to add some acidity to the otherwise very mellow sandwich.
Overall, this burger is decent, but it needs some “oomph.” The quality is surprising, and the construction is fine, but it needs more balance. Some heat and stronger notes of acid are needed to cut through the creamy guac and rich ranch sauce; the pico doesn’t fully cut it.
Finally, there’s the garlic white cheddar burger, a strangely potent choice for a McDonald’s burger. Garlic in and of itself isn’t necessarily potent, although for reasons I shall never understand, some don’t like it — but this burger’s extremely garlicky aroma is impressively strong.
Underneath the bun lay crispy fried garlic chips, garlic aioli, lettuce, and tomato, along with the customary patty. The garlic aroma rising from the burger is pungent — this burger isn’t fooling around.
It’s an extremely rich, savoury burger that is … well, extremely garlicky, which is expected of a garlic burger, I suppose. The aioli doesn’t do as much heavy lifting in the garlic department as the fried slices do, thankfully — if the sauce was just as garlic-forward, this burger would be a pungent disaster.
It’s not a bad burger as long as you don’t mind extreme garlic breath afterwards. And I admire its simplicity; it didn’t go overboard with extras like many “better burgers” do. Of course, if you don’t like garlic, definitely avoid this one. Give it a very wide berth.
The Signature Crafted line is, in many ways, a significant improvement on the custom Create Your Taste burgers. There’s less choice perhaps, but that helps keep the kitchen prep streamlined, which means this fairly high-quality fast food is still fast.
The wait for these burgers was about five minutes each – a marked difference from the 10 minute-plus waits of the Create Your Taste choices. And with price points all hovering around $US6 (at least in the New York City market), it’s not all that expensive for a decent quality burger.
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