McDonald's Catering To Customers Who Both Love And Hate Choices

LOS ANGELES , December 17, 2014 () – Fast-food customers both love choices and hate choices. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s an accurate statement. And McDonald’s has made moves recently that address both sides of the coin.

First, the burger chain announced that it was going to expand its “Create Your Taste” customized sandwich platform to 30 stores in five additional U.S. states—Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—this year and to more than 2,000 locations next year. The platform, which was initially launched in four Southern California stores, allows customers to bypass the counter and head to tablet-like kiosks where they can customize everything about their burger, from the type of bun to the variety of cheese to the toppings and sauces that can go on it. The platform will also be expanded to include chicken sandwiches.

This is a great concept by McDonald’s. It’s not uncommon for customers these days to ask for modifications to their fast-food sandwiches. Burger King’s longtime “Have It Your Way” slogan catered to that idea, so the notion is nothing new. All McDonald’s is doing is essentially taking this concept to the next level.

Now: Does this customized option mean it will take longer for customers to get their food? Yes. But in this case, it’s OK. Because by giving customers full power to customize, they are choosing to take extra time to make sure that their sandwich is created just right.

Now for the other side of the coin:

Two days after expanding the customized platform, McDonald’s announced that starting next month, it would cut eight food products and reduce the number of Extra Value Meals on its U.S. menus in a bid to speed up service and bolster sales.

Now at first glance, this may seem contradictory. How does McDonald’s offer choices to increase business on one hand, and then eliminate choices on the other hand in order to achieve the same goal? But here’s the difference: With the customized sandwich platform, the customers themselves are choosing to have more choices. With the bigger menu, more choices are being forced upon them, which isn’t always welcome.

Fast-food customers want both more and less choices, preferably at the same place. And McDonald’s is filling that need.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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