Bang Bang Bites is the biggest Charlotte burger news of the year, but I’m starting to think that the McDonald’s roll-out of new fresh beef patties in our city might be right up there.
Charlotte is one of eight test markets to first get Quarter Pounders with meat that’s never frozen and cooked to order. It’ll roll out nationally by May, but is available now at all McDonald’s locations in our metro area.
Local franchise operators Tony and Elena Ramos — who own five McDonald’s locations in Mecklenburg and Union counties — raised their hands to be the first locally to introduce the new fresh beef as corporate worked out the kinks in the process for cooking and storage.
They’ve had the new patties for a few weeks, serving them to customers without telling them about the change. Already, their Quarter Pounder sales are up 30 percent.
I can see why. I went to their restaurant on Wendover Road on Wednesday to try out the new burgers, and there is definitely a noticeable difference.
I’ve had plenty of McDonald’s burgers in the past that tasted limp, grey, warmed over and almost paste-like. The new patties taste much more flavorful. They are juicier, and there’s a nice sear on the burger that you can see.
They’re taking the cooked-to-order mandate seriously, too. My Quarter Pounder was actually too hot to eat right away and I had to let it cool for a minute before I continued.
The Ramoses also let me behind the counter to check out the process for how the cooking process works.
Before, the Quarter Pounder patties were taken out of the freezer and batch-cooked, before being put under a warmer for as long as 15 minutes before being served (well, it was the policy to not let them sit longer than 15 minutes … but you know how that goes).
Now, each burger is cooked only after the customer orders it. The grillmaster puts on a fresh pair of gloves and reaches into a new, specially designed cooler to pull out the fresh patty and puts it on the grill. The grilling itself is the same and takes about 80 seconds. A McDonald’s employee then brings out your burger to your table.
In a few weeks, McDonald’s locations in Charlotte will also roll out kiosks customers can use to order their food and table locator devices for employees to bring your food to you.
The new processes add to their expenses, but Tony told me he expects to make up for it with additional sales.
My first experience with the new burgers was at a press event set up by corporate, and you can never tell what impact that sort of thing has on your product and experience. So because I’m a serious journalist, I bought one as a regular customer out in the wild as well — the Double Quarter Pounder this time.
It was just as hot and just as tasty.
Bottom line: The new Quarter Pounder is still a fast-food burger.
It’s a different experience and taste than you’ll get at places like The Liberty or Bang Bang Burgers. But the new fresh patties make a noticeable difference. McDonald’s burgers are now comparable to the burgers you’d get at Cook Out.
I predict Charlotte McDonald’s will make a ton of money with them.