Thursday, April 9, 2015

Create Your Taste at McDonald's

For awhile now, it's been business as usual with McDonald's.  I occasionally purchased food from McDonald's when I needed a quick and predictable meal on my lunch break or a road trip, or when I was craving a delicious Southwest Salad (still my favorite menu item!).

Recently, I was offered an opportunity to visit a local Tampa Bay area McDonald's restaurant in Wesley Chapel, north of the city, where the owners and McDonald's chain are testing a new concept called Create Your Taste.

The Create Your Taste concept is unique on today's fast food scene, allowing consumers to place their orders for custom-created hamburgers using a touch-screen human-sized tablet in the restaurant's lobby.  The restaurants focus on the freshest, highest quality ingredients, and seek to give the customer an affordable hamburger that would cost double at any other sit-down restaurant.  The restaurant's Create Your Taste menu has dozens of different topping options, and even different bread (or non-bread!) options, offering a wide array of choices for those with dietary restrictions or seriously Type-A people who like to control everything.  Admittedly, I can relate to the second more than the first.

Custom burgers are only available for dine-in customers, but that may change someday and expand to the drive-through.  Eating in the restaurant was actually quite a treat, though, as the interior was newly remodeled and beautiful!

The modern, fun interior was surprising to me in the best possible way.
Then it's time to place your order.  I, of course, opted for a customer hamburger to see how this concept worked.  Here's how a custom burger is created...

Pick your meat...

Pick your wrap (Artisan Roll, Ciabatta Roll or Lettuce Wrap)

Pick your cheese (American, White Cheddar or Pepper Jack)

Pick your toppings....

Pick your sauce...

Review your order.

Voila!  Your custom burger has been created.  From here you can pick your sides and drink.  Burgers are all the same price (right around $5.00 each), and the only up-charges are for extra patties of meat ($1.00 each) or bacon ($1 for 2 strips).  In the value meal, medium fries are standard with a small up-charge for large fries or large/specialty drinks.  In addition, you can add standard menu items like Chicken McNuggets and Happy Meals to your order.

After choosing your menu items, you pick up a locator and enter the code onto the touch screen.

Grab a locator...

Type in your locator number so the server can find you when your custom creation is ready for delivery to your table.

Afterward, you then pay using the the credit card machine beneath the touch screen.

There is actually a special prep area for custom burgers in this McDonald's, run by it's own specially trained team of employees.  They have their own grill, they have their own bun toaster, their own refrigerators for cheese... everything.  And the staff truly own their roles, and take pride in creating great products.  When an order is completed, they ring a bell and put the basket in the window for pick-up by a staff member.

The staff brings your custom sandwich to you and their training is evident:  They serve from the right, just like at a fine dining restaurant!  My Ritz-Carlton brethren would be so,so proud.

Notice how the fries come in a tiny, little fry basket?  Awesome touch!
Here's my custom creation up close.  It's a burger on a Ciabatta bun with guacamole, chili-lime tortilla strips, lettuce, tomato and white cheddar cheese.  It was absolutely scrumptious!  The texture and flavors were outstanding.  I really do love a spicy burger!

During my tour of the restaurant by one of the franchise owners (who was absolutely delightful!), I sense great enthusiasm for his newly remodeled store, the Create Your Taste concept, and even the assembly area, where the Create Your Taste sandwiches are brought to life.  It was quite impressive and nothing like my former image of McDonald's, and that's just how he wanted it to be.  I saw the evolution of a pop culture icon, and it's only getting better.

They've even upped the ante with professional new uniforms and increased staff training, giving team members the opportunity to remake sandwiches or discard ingredients that don't meet their standards.  I found this so, so refreshing, and could see how engaged the staff members were with one another.  They were communicating well, smiling and seemed to be having fun on the job, which I LOVE to see.  I can tell that their empowerment of their staff members was making a big difference culturally, too.

Here was one of those attractive new uniforms on a smiley, happy team member...

Cute apron, right?  I was totally smitten, so they gave me my own!  No cook can have too many aprons.

Overall, I was excited to see that McDonald's is taking a step toward the new trend in custom, complex offerings for a more discriminating customer.  This concept is being tested in 20 restaurants across the country, and this is the only location in Florida.  If you have a chance, drive up I-75 to Wesley Chapel and check it out.  This concept will surely be a hit!

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

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