In the spirit of progress and bougie-fication, McDonald's is currently testing a fast-casual Build-Your-Own-Burger concept at two locations in Southern California and Illinois.
Similar to BYOB chains such as The Counter and Smashburger, McDonald's version allows customers their choice of bread, cheese, toppings, and sauces, as well as a small range of pre-set burgers for those who'd rather leave the creative stuff to the pros.
After reading about it on Brand Eating (via OC Register), FOODBEAST ventured to Laguna Niguel in south Orange County to try the concept ourselves. The newly redesigned, almost-too-swanky-to-be-a-McDonald's, space was decked with BYOB signage and a green wall highlighting the custom iPad ordering system — a system which, oddly enough, was not connected to the main McDonald's POS, and instead required employees with mobile tablets to copy our orders down, and then send them over to the main counter. These tablets, moreover, were not working when we visited, so everything had to be written down by hand. (But hey, that's what tests are for, right?)
Here's what we found.
For $5.79, you get your run of the following options:
Bread (both buttered and toasted):
- The standard McDonald's bakery style bun, or
- A new egg-wash "artisan" roll
- Natural sharp white cheddar,
- Natural pepperjack, or
- American cheese
Toppings (as many as you want, for no additional charge):
- Grilled mushrooms
- Red onions
- Grilled onions
- Chili lime tortilla strips
Sauces (also as many as you want):
- Big Mac sauce
- Spicy mayo
- Creamy garlic sauce
- Sweet BBQ
$1 more buys three strips of applewood smoked bacon, and $1.25 more gets you an extra burger patty. You can also order any of the toppings on the side to customize McDonald's existing burgers for no additional charge.
Our creation was fairly tame, just American cheese, guacamole, grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, spicy mayo, and bacon on the artisan bun.
We also ordered the three pre-built burgers:
The SoCal Style, made with natural white cheddar cheese, guac, chili lime tortilla strips, tomato, lettuce, and garlic sauce on the bakery bun.
The Grill Thriller, made with bacon, natural white cheddar cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and sweet BBQ sauce on the artisan roll
and the Hot All Over, made with natural pepperjack, jalapeños, tomato, lettuce, and spicy mayo on the artisan roll.
For dine-in orders, each burger is served open-faced in an aluminum basket. On request, you can also get the specialized to-go boxes, complete with BYOB branding.
Overall the burgers were fine, if a little misplaced, as though everything were a little too high quality to belong in a Mickey D's. With all the proprietary signage and packaging alone, this concept is definitely not something we can see being adopted at a McDonald's Wal-Mart. We even overheard someone exclaim after seeing the redesigned counter, "Oh no, this is going to make things more expensive. I mean, good for you, but bad for me."
It also hurts a little that for $8 - 9, we still didn't get fries with that.
What do you guys think? Would you buy an upscale, customized burger from McDonald's? Or would you rather stick with your Quarter Pounders and Big Macs?