McDonald’s is updating their burgers to compete with higher-end chains

Big Mac hamburger at a McDonald's restaurant
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Decades after the “burger wars” of the 1980s pitted fast-food chains against each other, a new front has opened up. And McDonald’s is defending its super-sized empire the best way it knows how — by fortifying its weapon of choice, the mighty hamburger.

McDonald’s investors caught a glimpse of the strategy in a recent meeting that outlined the company’s strategic moves, including its “best burgers ever” project.

One of the key changes? Bigger burgers.

“In the U.S., in a number of markets, around the world, having a larger burger is an opportunity,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski told CNN. “We’re working on that. That is something you should expect in the future.”

A worker passes a bag of McDonald’s out the drive-thru window.

The push is due to the emergence of fast-casual and higher-end burger chains like Five Guys, Shake Shack and Smashburger. As the biggest fast food chain in the world, Mickey D’s couldn’t just sit back and let the upstarts take over.

MORE: You’ve been eating burgers wrong your whole life

So began a campaign to improve the company’s burger prep, from top to bottom. After much experimentation in their test kitchens, McDonald’s came up with a few relatively easy fixes to bump up their burger quality.

The findings: The Big Mac needed more sauce. Room-temp cheese melts better than slices just out of the fridge. Less pressure on the burgers as they grill, to retain more moisture. Frequent restocks of pickles and lettuce to keep them cold and fresh. Dehydrated onions should hit the meat as it cooks, instead of after.

Tray with McDonald's burger and fries

Those changes are now being rolled out. And in a gambit to snag a bigger chunk of the chicken market, plans are in motion to bring back their much-missed Snack Wraps.

But the next challenge looms — how to build a bigger burger for their 38,000-plus restaurants worldwide.

“We think we’re going to be able to deliver a great-tasting large burger at a superior value to what [customers] can get anywhere else,” Kempczinski told CNN.

Bring it on, burger boss!

MORE: McDonald’s announces spinoff restaurant chain CosMc’s

Food, News

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kathleen's work.

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