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Will McDonald's Risky New Changes Pay Off?

You may have heard in the last few years that McDonald’s has been testing out some major changes for its popular restaurant chain. Recently, some new potential changes regarding our fan-favorite burgers have been announced, causing us to stop and wonder what the future of McDonald’s actually holds.

The big change that's been in the works for years is the revamping of McDonald's overall aesthetic. McDonald’s released some of the new styles (including “Form,” “Simply Modern,” and “Fresh and Vibrant”) back in 2014 with entirely new looks from what we’re used to seeing. Gone were the plastic booths and cafeteria trays. Inside of these McDonald’s are earth tones, dimmed lighting, chic seating options, and electronic kiosks for ordering. Goodbye, gold old golden arches.

McDs Style Guide

The newest change McDonald's has been testing is making the switch to fresh beef patties rather than frozen patties. So far, only 14 locations in the Midwest have gotten a chance to experience these fresh burgers, but needless to say, many fast food lovers across America are intrigued.

Others, however, are just confused. McDonald’s is the most popular fast food chain in America and makes billions of dollars a year based on the formula they have now. Why would they want to change it?

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Well, as it turns out, it’s not all roses for the multi-billion-dollar franchise.

These changes are in response to a rapid decline in sales over the last few years as McDonald’s struggles to keep up with higher-end fast food chains like Shake Shack and Chipotle. These types of restaurants don’t just give patrons fast, delicious food, they also provide an atmosphere for customers to enjoy. And in this day and age of hipster foodies and experience dining, the tacky “cafeteria style” of McDonald’s just isn’t working anymore.

The move towards fresh beef patties is another appeal to a modern day mindset: clean eating.

As we’ve seen with Burger King’s desperate attempts to gain attention through wacky mash-ups like the Mac n’ Cheetos, the bar is constantly being raised for fast-food dining. And even the key players of the industry seem to feel that extreme change is the only way to keep up with the wants of consumers.

The move towards fresh beef patties is another appeal to a modern day mindset: clean eating. 76% of Americans have stated that they seek out “clean” foods – such as fruits, veggies, and lean meats – rather than processed foods.

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While it doesn’t seem like McDonald’s has any intention of making their food healthier, I think it may be safe to assume the potential move to fresh beef is in an attempt to appease this clean eating mindset.

McDonalds burger factory in Scunthorpe, Lincs. Photo by Adam Gasson.

Anyone can see that using fresh beef isn’t going to make a Big Mac better for you, but it’s something about the increased quality of the food that makes the switch feel like a big, health-conscious upgrade. It almost seems like an echo of the trendy farm-to-table movement you see in “homegrown” restaurants. McDonald’s is certainly not a “homegrown” establishment, but they want their health-conscious consumers to feel like they are.

According to Business Insider, these changes could present financial challenges, rather than financial gains, for McDonald’s.

The change to daily fresh beef won’t come without a hefty price tag. However, some believe that the consumer appreciation for the higher quality of the food would send sales through the roof, easily covering the cost of purchasing fresh beef every day. Experts are also concerned that there will not be enough supply of beef to keep up with the demand McDonald’s would provide.

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There are only so many cows in the world, McDonald's.

As far as the change in look goes, this is even more of a crap-shoot. To change the look of each McDonald’s across the country will costs hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least) and may not even be worth the gamble – studies have found that 70% of customers use the drive-thru when purchasing McDonald’s and don’t even step foot in the restaurant.

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Although a handful of these updated restaurants have been opened to the public in the last few years, it’s still unclear if this trendy up-scaling will help McDonald’s keep up with its immediate competition. And it may be several years before we find out; McDonald’s was hoping to have all restaurants renovated to their new styles by 2015, but so far only 20% of their 14,300 locations have been updated.

According to a McDonald's spokesperson, the focus of the restaurant continues to be on remodeling for the years to come, but an end to the renovations are not immediately in sight. So, for now, we’ll all to just have to wait and see if this gamble will pay off for our seemingly once-beloved McDonald’s.