With so many choices for fast food fans in China, how do you get their attention? One of the quirkier attempts from McDonald’s this month was the launch of its limited edition Modern China Burger, which is spiced up with Sichuan pepper ketchup and sandwiched between grey mantou (steamed buns) speckled with black sesame.
Some of McDonald’s foreign fans recoiled in horror at the burger’s silvery look (Time Out Beijing likened them to the clouds of pollution above the Chinese capital) but its novelty value has still attracted many local diners.
The company’s investors also had reason to cheer as its shares moved to a record high this month, helped by an increase in same-restaurant sales in China of 26.8% on the same quarter last year. The company credited a new focus on breakfast menus and value meals, as well as a concerted marketing effort in the wake of the (same) tainted meat scandal that hit Yum Brands and a number of other fast food firms last year.
Like Yum, McDonald’s is wrestling with the challenge of keeping consumers interested with fresh, locally-tailored menus – but without ditching the standardisation ethos so key to controlling costs. Hence Zhang Jiayin, the head of McDonald’s in China, has been promoting a “Create Your Taste” campaign that allows diners to customise their hamburgers from 24 kinds of ingredients. And she’s promising more changes to appeal to local tastebuds. “Consumers who have just been exposed to McDonald’s and those who have known McDonald’s several years have different needs,” she told the local media. “Consumers say that I enjoy your service, cleanliness, and quality, but I hope to eat rice. I heard this, and though we are still a hamburger restaurant, we will give consumers more choices and more innovation. The ‘create your taste’ menu, large bowls of rice, and large hamburgers are the response to this voice.”
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