Tuesday, 9 June 2015

McDonald's (Create Your Taste Menu), Willetton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)



Let's face it - McDonald's are a pretty soft target when it comes to criticism. During the late 90s/early 2000s, McLibel and Supersize Me did not do wonders for the image of the massive multinational corporation as they were justifiably criticised for unhealthy food in unhealthily large portions. While I myself stayed away from McDonald's for a number of years, I felt some sympathy for the company when Ronald McDonald seemed to become the sole posterboy of all things unhealthy in the world, while companies like KFC and Hungry Jacks were able to continue business as usual without the same level of critique - especially when McDonald's actually took major steps to address the unhealthiness complaints (in Australia at least). Additionally, while the majority of so-called gourmet burgers that I have eaten have been tasty, many have often left me thinking; 'yeah, but is this really any healthier or that much better than McDonald's?'



Perhaps all the pressure and scrutiny has been a good thing, however, as McDonald's Australia has allowed something of a culture of innovation to blossom over the last decade or so. McCafe originated in this country, and experimentation with new ideas like wraps, more interesting chicken burgers and premium items like the Mighty and Grand Angus Burgers have shown a company willing to try new things rather than stagnate and die (as the American parent company seems to be doing). The only problem with the constant stream of new products has been that unless you were a die hard who popped in for a weekly Macca's run, you'd be hard pressed to keep track of it all. Which is why Create Your Own is probably their best idea yet - why have a confusing and increasingly crowded menu when you can now allow the customer to order exactly the kind of burger they really want to eat?


The ordering process for Create Your Own is done entirely via a touch screen system. First you choose to dine in or take away...


... then how you'd like to pay.


From there you begin building your burger. Start with a choice of buns...


... a selection of cheeses,...


... and optional extra fillings like mushrooms, guacamole, tortilla chips, bacon (of which you can choose two different types!) and eggs.


Then you can choose what vegetables you'd like to freshen up the burger...


and the sauce (or sauces) you'd like.


Your complete burger is shown for you to confirm your order, with sides and other standard McDonald's items able to be ordered at the same time.


If you're paying at the machine, you grab a beeper and simply sit down, with your burger brought out to you when it is ready. The wait is considerably longer than is usual for McDonald's, but is understandable considering the nature of the beast.


Maybe not as catchy as Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, Alissa's Make Your Taste consisted of one Angus Beef patty, Chipotle Mayo, Lettuce, Tomato, Grilled Mushrooms , Colby Jack Cheese, Pickles, Grilled Onions on a Brioche Bun, served with a side of Macca's very familiar shoestring Fries.


Having chosen everything herself, the burger consisted of many of Alissa's favourite fillings, so we largely had to judge the burger's success on its execution. All the components used were very good and clearly positioned it as a gourmet burger - the brioche bun was pillowy soft and nicely toasted, the Angus patty meaty and juicy, and the Colby Jack cheese a decent step up from the processed cheese that is the standard with McDonald's. The Bacon and Mushroom provided additional umami flavour, with the lettuce tomato and generous long pickles providing freshness to cut the decidedly unctuous burger. This was a legitimately good burger - if your local made something like this, you'd be very happy.


With similar tastes, I order a burger that was much the same as Alissa's, except for the addition of Ketchup and my foolish decision to order a second Angus Patty to bring it closer to a Double Quarter Pounder - my favourite McDonald's burger. As soon as the burger arrived, I realised that I'd made a huge mistake as the tower of protein and the precariously unstable lettuce pieces made for a burger far too large for me to take a bite of - one of my pet hates. While deliciously meaty, the double patties overpowered everything else, with the mushroom flavour become insipid as a result and the tower soon became cumbersome and difficult to eat. This was entirely of my own doing as I created this taste experience, so I don't blame the restaurant for these faults. I still enjoyed the quality of the components in spite of this, however it is worth mentioning as bigger but unbalanced is definitely not better.


The Verdict: Very Good
By keeping up with the times and finding a way to offer even more variety in their premium burgers range while simplifying their menu, the Create Your Taste menu is a real winner. Alissa and I particularly liked the pillowy Brioche Buns and the Angus Patties, and to customise a burger out of all your favourite things is even better than the best burger combinations they've offered in the past. With good ingredients, the onus is really on the customer to come up with a balanced combination that works . Alissa definitely passed with flying colours, while I disappointed myself with meat greed -  all the more ridiculous when you consider beef is not even my favourite meat to begin with!

Of course, I'm sure that while there are probably set guidelines for sauce amounts, lettuce to bun ratios and ways of assembling the burgers, there will undoubtedly be more variation store to store (and staff to staff) with these items than McDonald's classics - and even those can be poorly made in the wrong hands (McDonald's Armadale once gave Alissa a burger with no bun!). So it is worth noting - if you locals Macca's can barely get a Big Mac right, then your Create Your Taste experience will be considerably worse than Alissa and I encountered. Otherwise, the only other suggestion for improvement that I would make is that the Create Your Taste menu does not give you the option to have Chicken instead. I would have loved to have built a deluxe McChicken with the options at hand. Maybe this will be an option in the futurte, but as it stands Create Your Taste is a commendable effort by McDonald's to step up their game in the Premum Burger end of the market.

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