Category Archives: mcdonald’s

10 gross reasons why fast food needs robot workers


The other day I wrote about how surprising it was that robot Zambonis aren’t yet widespread. Even more amazing is the fact that fast-food joints aren’t yet entirely staffed by robots.

It seems like a new tale of fast-food employee grossness emerges weekly, with the latest involving a KFC worker in Wales who claimed on Facebook to have inserted pubic hair into customers’ meals. KFC said it had investigated the incident and found it to be untrue, but the damage was already done.

Such incidents, many of which turn out to be real indeed, are almost a form of corporate terrorism. While it’s highly unlikely that the average customer will ever get a meal contaminated with pubes, boogers, spit or other bodily fluids, hearing about such isolated cases is enough to sour perceptions and put a person off fast food entirely.

With employees of such chains around the world expressing anger over their low wages, it’s also likely these incidents will continue and possibly even increase in frequency. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Burger King, domino's, food, mcdonald's, robots, taco bell, wendy's


Chipotle bringing vegan burritos to Canada

sofritasVegetarian burrito fans in Canada rejoice – Chipotle is bringing Sofritas north. Starting Monday, the fast casual chain will be serving up the vegan tofu filling in burritos, tacos, salads and taco bowls alongside regular meat options in its one Vancouver and eight Toronto outlets.

The Denver-based chain has been testing Sofritas in a few U.S. markets over the past year. My vegetarian wife and I happened to be in one of them (San Francisco) last week and we just happened to pop into a Chipotle for a quick lunch. Now, I wouldn’t dream of eating a vegetarian option when meat is available, but my wife wasted no time in ordering it. Chipotle’s only other option for vegetarians has typically been burritos or tacos with a few veggies and a big dollop of guacamole, so she was quite excited for the new tofu choice.

The verdict? She liked it quite a bit. The tofu is as close as it gets to sausage – it’s modeled on chorizo. “It doesn’t taste like tofu because of the spices,” she says, and it includes chipotle chilis and poblanos.

Vegetarians already account for about seven to 10 per cent of Chipotle’s business, according to communications director Chris Arnold, who I chatted with in Toronto this week. Despite its newness, Sofritas is already accounting for about three to four per cent, he said. The tofu option is obviously proving popular.

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in food, mcdonald's, taco bell


Review: Taco Bell breakfast a pleasant experience

The Waffle Taco: it actually kind of looks like a taco.

The Waffle Taco: it actually kind of looks like a taco.

It’s not every day you get to live out Taco Bell’s “run for the border” slogan, but that’s exactly what a friend and I did on Thursday morning as we headed to New York state to try the chain’s new breakfast menu.

Pretty much everyone we encountered had a hard time believing we were indeed making the hour-and-a-half drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls, New York, just for some fast food. The evidently suspicious border guard asked me to roll down my back window, hand over my keys and pop the trunk. I’d never been searched before and had a hard time imagining what he must have been thinking or looking for. Do two dudes alone in a car often smuggle things into the U.S.? And what would we be smuggling – beaver pelts, or perhaps Kraft Dinner?

Nevertheless, we were but innocent taco seekers with nothing to hide, so we were soon on our way. We arrived at the Taco Bell at 7300 Niagara Falls Boulevard – I’m mentioning the address for a specific reason, which I’ll get to below – just after nine. To our delight, posters highlighting the new breakfast menu hung in the window. The restaurant was empty as we entered and the counter staff greeted us warmly. They asked where we were from and looked as surprised as the border guard upon learning we’d come all the way from Canada. We’d apparently missed the big rush – customers had been waiting since six a.m. for the restaurant to open at seven.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in food, mcdonald's, taco bell, tim hortons


Better eating trend a good economic story too

Empty McDonald's: a good thing?

Empty McDonald’s: a good thing?

I was walking through the Eaton Centre the other day and I couldn’t help but notice how much things have changed over the past few years when it comes to eating options. A new Richtree Natural Market restaurant recently opened in place of an old fast-food court at the southern end of the downtown Toronto shopping mall. That follows the $48 million refurbishment of the northern food court in 2011. In both cases, the respective options have moved decidedly upmarket. While the northern court still houses the likes of A&W and KFC, it also has a number of fancier eateries including gourmet burger and vegan options, while all customers get real plates, glasses and cutlery. Judging from the constant throngs that mob both areas, it’s safe to say that shoppers are generally spending more time and money eating at the mall.

This relates to a story recently sent my way on the “slow death of the microwave.” The author starts his thesis on shaky ground – that microwave sales have fallen 40 per cent since their peak in 2004, and that this means people are eating better – but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make a compelling case by the end of it.

The plateauing of microwave sales could be readily explained by the simple fact that it’s a mature technology. As with all such gadgets and devices, once everyone has one they don’t usually need another one for a while – and indeed, north of 90 per cent of households do have one. But the most telling statistic to back up the author’s claim is the corresponding flattening or small decline in frozen food sales, which has been happening since 2008 after 60 years of solid growth. That’s like if the current flattening of smartphone sales were to be accompanied by a corresponding drop-off in data usage – it’s not happening because the proliferation of the gadget often leads to the explosion of its usage. Such a strong correlation in microwave food consumption is difficult to ignore.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in economy, food, mcdonald's


McDonald’s woes a lesson in moderation

So... many... choices...

So… many… choices…

Believe it or not, we can all learn a thing or two from McDonald’s.

The company last week said fourth-quarter earnings would again fall short of analyst expectations, marking the fifth straight quarter of that happening. In a conference call with investors, chief operating officer Tim Fenton finally admitted the company had a problem: “We overcomplicated the restaurants and didn’t give restaurants an opportunity to breathe. We need to do fewer products with better execution.”

Just how complicated has McDonald’s menu become? Burger Business has crunched the numbers and found that the size of the menu has increased 75 per cent since 2004, going from 69 to 121 permanent items in that time. And that doesn’t include limited-time items such as Fish McBites, Steak & Egg Burrito, White Chocolate Mocha, Pralines & Crème McFlurry, Quarter Pounder BLT, all of which were introduced in the past year or so. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in food, mcdonald's


2013: The best (and worst) in fast food


Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger: Yes, please.

It was a fun year for fast-food, if quirky new menu items are your idea of fun. In their never-ending quest to outdo each other, the big chains kept customers guessing with a steady raft of new concoctions, some better than others.

I sometimes get asked why I write about fast-food, since technology is my main purview. I generally give one of three reasons. For one, it’s something of a holdover from Sex, Bombs and Burgers, the book I wrote about how the military, pornography and fast-food industries are technology leaders. I don’t write as much about the other two businesses these days, but fast-food has strangely proven to be a popular topic with readers. I can also justify it with the notion that all these new products come through similar research and development pipelines as smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. Mostly, though, I write about fast-food as the occasional diversion – it’s nice to take a break from the routine every one in a while. As such, I’ve made it my mission to try the big new releases. I’m happy to report that I got to most of them this year.

McDonald’s had a busy year, especially here in Canada. The company finally gave vegetarian Canadians something to eat this summer with two veggie wraps. Coming in two flavours – spicy Santa Fe or garlicky Mediterranean – the wraps are sizable and pretty tasty (my vegetarian wife, normally a harsh critic of such things, approves). Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Burger King, burgers, food, mcdonald's, taco bell, wendy's


Review: McDonald’s poutine a real mama bear

mcpoutineIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any new fast-food offerings, but truth be told, there hasn’t been much of late that caught my eye. Until now. Behold: McPoutine.

That’s not what McDonald’s is calling it – it’s just poutine – but the chain is finally getting with the times here in Canada by making the uber-popular dish a permanent menu item. It’s nearly impossible now to go into a food establishment in this country without having it as an option (is Tim Hortons next?). That’s good news for all of us poutine aficionados (links to PDF), or poutinados, as it were.

Upon hearing the news, I headed straight to the nearest Golden Arches to see how McD’s take on the Quebec staple stands up. After all, McDonald’s legendary fries meets the fundamental awesomeness of gravy and cheese curds – what could go wrong, right? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 5, 2013 in food, mcdonald's, poutine