Fresh Meets Fast

Fresh and fast? That’s right. After four years of preparation, McDonald's plans to introduce fresh beef patties for it’s Quarter Pounders and Signature Crafted burgers in the majority of its roughly 14,000 U.S. restaurants. However, all other burgers, including the signature Big Mac, will continue to be made with pre-cooked, frozen patties. The fast-food giant said that their team has finally concluded their testing on ways to introduce this feature to the menu without lessening quality, adding unnecessary food safety risks, or slowing down food production.

According to the Mcdonald’s corporate website, customer safety is a top priority. They state, “We maintain rigorous, science-based standards and evaluations in critical areas throughout our entire food and toy supply chains. Our food suppliers must have food safety management systems in place, including Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), sanitation programs and a verified Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, as well as crisis management and food security programs. In addition to our own programs and policies, we have been leading the effort in harmonizing food safety standards and audits within the food industry by working with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). This will allow our suppliers to reduce redundant audits and focus their resources on continuous improvement activities.”

Throughout the years, even through troubling times such as the Bird Flu Outbreak in 2015, there has been one constant at Mcdonald’s - it’s excellent supply chain. In 2017, it claimed its place in the number 2 position, behind only Unilever, in Gartner’s Supply Chain Top 25 for the fifth year in a row, its seventh year in the top 10. Considering the size and scale of the company, this is an impressive achievement. McDonald’s caters to 69 million customers daily in 36,000 restaurants across 100 countries. On top of that, Mcdonald’s strives to always keep their goal of never being short of an item a customer orders and maintaining the restrictions around when deliveries can be made. That being said, incorporating fresh beef into the supply chain may present a few challenges for the golden arches.

Popular McDonald’s competitor, Wendy’s, has thrived on their promotion of fresh beef patties since the company’s founding in 1969. According to their corporate website, “Wendy’s fresh food supply chain has been in place since our beginning, making fresh, never frozen beef deliveries to Wendy’s restaurants between 12,000 and 18,000 times every week. Maintaining our high standards for high quality beef does present a few obstacles, like a shorter shelf life than frozen beef, increased difficulty building and maintaining inventory, multiple weekly deliveries, and the need for a more robust system to monitor the temperature of the fresh beef throughout its journey in the supply chain.”

Mcdonald’s suppliers have invested about $60 million updating their supply chain to transition to fresh beef. It is of paramount importance to maintain a strict, temperature controlled environment on the journey from the supplier to the customer. In order to prevent harmful bacteria growth, the perishable patties should be kept cold at 40 Degrees F during transportation to the stores. The lower temperature prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses. Mcdonald’s also uses multi-temperature trucks for transportation. All kinds of raw products can be delivered at the same time which means everything from lettuce to patties to buns will be delivered together. That further stresses the importance of continuous temperature monitoring throughout each area of the truck in order to ensure that each product was stored at a properly regulated temperature during each leg of its journey.

Communication and collaboration between all parties in the chain needs to be established as a high priority in order to ensure that deliveries are executed smoothly. The company constantly tracks everything, sharing all data with partners and franchise owners, including daily point-of-sale data for each item, restaurant stock levels, and inventories, among other metrics such as storage temperatures. Gartner noted in its reasoning for placing McDonald’s second on its supply chain list was that “Overall, the McDonald's corporate supply chain team excels at orchestrating the upstream supply network. It promotes and acts as the conduit between outsourced vendors, suppliers, corporate stores and franchise partners. It uses council meetings to collaborate with suppliers on new product innovation and technology, as well as on plant safety. Base expectations with suppliers are managed through a standard supplier performance index, but the differentiator is more cultural and behavioral, as partners tend to put the McDonald's system first when sharing product and process innovations and staffing support teams with top talent.”

Operating a highly effective supply chain requires trust in supply chain partners, compliant data collection, and a strong motivation to keep customers safe and happy. “At the end of the day, McDonald's is a burger company," said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald's USA president, according to US News. "For us, there is no more important place to focus on improving the quality and safety of our food than the burger."