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McDonald’s to reportedly offer child care and tuition aid for employees

The fast-food industry is struggling to rebuild its workforce

Restaurants in general, and fast-food restaurants in particular, have struggled to staff up as the economy reopens from the pandemic shutdown. McDonald’s is reportedly opening its wallet to lure workers back.

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s franchisees, who own 95% of McDonald’s restaurants, are beefing up compensation packages after surveying current employees about what they want. After looking at the results, the restaurants are not only offering high...

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    McDonald’s to introduce three new chicken sandwiches

    Chicken continues to replace burgers as consumers’ favorite fast-food choice

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants have generally streamlined their menus to increase efficiency during challenging times. McDonald’s is bucking that trend to start 2021 by adding three new chicken sandwiches to its lineup.

    Since Popeye’s created a social media sensation in 2019 with its chicken sandwich, chicken increasingly appears to be what draws customers to fast-food restaurants. Though the pandemic is still raging, McDonald’s appears to be preparing for its end while offering up more “comfort food” to help customers get through it.

    Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s vice president of menu innovation, said the new menu items are a response to customer feedback.

    “We’re confident all chicken fans – from traditionalists to spice enthusiasts – will discover a new menu favorite they’ll come back for time and time again,” she said.

    While it’s basically one chicken sandwich, McDonald’s says it will be available in three versions at participating locations starting Feb. 24. The three sandwiches are:

    • Crispy chicken sandwich

    • Spicy chicken sandwich, with spicy pepper sauce

    • Deluxe chicken sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo

    Better chicken sandwich part of the strategy

    McDonald’s has actually regained some lost ground during the pandemic, thanks to its existing drive-thru operation and quick pivot to delivery. In 2019, the company told shareholders that it needed a better chicken sandwich to win back customers.

    Indeed, the entire industry appears to be in hot pursuit of chicken leader Chick-Fil-A and 2019’s sensation Popeye’s. In October, Wendy’s got a head start on McDonald’s with the rollout of its Classic Chicken Sandwich, with what it said was an improved chicken fillet.

    In fact, Wendy’s announced that chicken upgrade would go into its complete line of chicken menu items. Meanwhile, KFC is said to be test marketing a new, premium chicken sandwich.

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, restaurants have generally streamlined their menus to increase efficiency during challenging times. McDonald’s is buck...
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    McDonald’s to roll out 10 days of free food for the holidays

    Items include movie character-inspired McDoubles, hot cakes, and Egg McMuffins

    McDonald’s is giving away food for the holidays. Every day from Monday, December 14, through December 24, the fast food icon is offering daily deals on menu items that feature favorite holiday characters from TV and film.

    “After a year like 2020, I think we could all use some extra cheer this season,” said McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley. 

    Before you schedule a family trip to McDonald’s in hopes of taking advantage of the free feeding frenzy, you should know that each daily-promoted menu item requires a $1 minimum purchase -- and the purchases have to be made through the “deals” section of the McDonald’s app.

    However, in a nod to Santa, a 2-pack/3-pack of chocolate chip cookies will be available completely free on Christmas Eve, no minimum purchase required.

    The daily deals

    As you’ll see, McDonald’s daily deals all have some sort of a connection to a character in a classic holiday movie or TV episode. Here’s the list: 

    Dec. 14: The Griswolds, free Double Cheeseburger. Note: The company did not list any exceptions for Cousin Eddie or his “tenement on wheels,” nor did they say if Clark Griswold might be dropping by with free eggnog refills.

    Dec. 15: The Abominable Snowmonster, free Big Mac

    Dec. 16: Grinch, free Egg McMuffin

    Dec. 17: John McClane, free McDouble. This tie-in is a bit of a stretch, but John McClane was the role Bruce Willis played in ‘Die Hard,’ which opened up with Willis traveling to Los Angeles to attend a Christmas Eve party.

    Dec. 18: Rudolph, free medium Fry

    Dec. 19: Gizmo, free 6-piece McNuggets. By the way, Gizmo is that furry little pet Billy’s dad gave him for Christmas in the ‘Gremlins’ movie.

    Dec. 20: Buddy the Elf, free Hotcakes

    Dec. 21: Scrooge, free any-size Hot or Iced Coffee

    Dec. 22: Frosty the Snowman, free any size McFlurry

    Dec. 23: On this day, McDonald’s is paying homage to ‘Seinfeld’s’ Frank Costanza and his idea for creating a “festivus for the rest-of-us” when he couldn’t get the doll George wanted for Christmas. As the daily freebie, customers can get a bakery item -- Apple Fritter, Cinnamon Roll, or Blueberry Muffin -- of their choice.

    Dec. 24: Santa, free 2-pack or 3-pack Chocolate Chip Cookies (No minimum purchase required)

    McDonald’s is giving away food for the holidays. Every day from Monday, December 14, through December 24, the fast food icon is offering daily deals on men...
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    McDonald’s Happy Meals could cost more in 2021

    The fast food chain is eliminating a subsidy that helped keep the cost of the menu item down

    The price of McDonald’s Happy Meals could rise in 2021 as a result of the end of a deal between the fast food giant and its franchisees. Previously, the deal subsidized the price of the toys that come with Happy Meals. 

    About 95 percent of U.S. McDonald’s locations are owned and operated by independent franchisees, which are in charge of setting prices for menu items. For years, McDonald's has been giving each franchise around $300 per month to keep the cost of Happy Meals down. Without the contribution, many franchisees say they will be forced to raise the price of the popular menu item. 

    The company told franchisees that it’s doing away with the subsidy because it’s "no longer fueling growth in the way it once was.” As a result, franchises have been cleared to increase the price of a Happy Meal by 20 cents starting next year if they so choose. 

    The National Owners Association, a group of McDonald's franchisees, said in a team message that it "does not support, nor did we endorse" the elimination of the financial support, according to CNN Business.

    "We believe the Happy Meal rebates represent a token of partnership and acknowledgment by the company that each owner [and] operator invests to drive affordable family business to our restaurants," the group said in the letter.

    The price of McDonald’s Happy Meals could rise in 2021 as a result of the end of a deal between the fast food giant and its franchisees. Previously, the de...
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    McDonald’s to roll out two new menu items to bolster sales

    Spicy McNuggets and a new McFlurry will be available September 16 for a limited time

    In an effort to offset the drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s will soon introduce two new menu items. The fast-food chain has announced that it will add Spicy McNuggets and a Chips Ahoy McFlurry to its menu for a limited time starting September 16. 

    “This is the first time we’ve introduced a new flavor of our classic Chicken McNuggets in the U.S. since they came to menus in 1983,” said Vice President of Menu Innovation, Linda VanGosen in a statement. “As our customers have been asking for Spicy McNuggets for some time now, we couldn’t think of a better time to bring them to our menus. We can’t wait for McNuggets fans to get a taste of these new spicy options.”

    McDonald’s said the new Spicy McNuggets will be made with a tempura coating that includes cayenne and chili peppers. The nuggets will be complemented by a new “Mighty Hot Sauce,” which McDonald’s says will boast a “powerful blend of crushed red peppers and spicy chilis.”

    The Chips Ahoy McFlurry, meanwhile, will include crushed cookies and caramel swirls. 

    “This delicious treat features vanilla soft-serve, caramel topping and Chips Ahoy! cookie pieces blended throughout,” the company said in a statement. “The Chips Ahoy! McFlurry will be available in Snack and Regular sizes for a limited time at participating U.S. restaurants nationwide beginning September 16.” 

    COVID-19 safety measures

    To help customers feel safe, McDonald’s is highlighting its new COVID-19 related safety measures. The fast-food giant says it has worked with the Mayo Clinic to ensure proper sanitation protocols are followed in restaurants and at the drive-thru. 

    McDonald’s is also requiring staff and all customers who enter U.S. restaurants to wear a face covering.

    “While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it’s important we protect the safety of all employees and customers,” the company said. “We cannot emphasize enough the importance of continuing to follow PPE procedures including proper mask use by crew.” 

    In an effort to offset the drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s will soon introduce two new menu items. The fast-food chain has announ...
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    McDonald’s experiments with social distance dining in the Netherlands

    The plan could be a blueprint for U.S. restaurants

    Fast food dining rooms in most states remain closed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but McDonald’s plans for the reopening may be on display in the Netherlands.

    McDonald’s restaurants in that country are experimenting with designated waiting areas for customers, hand sanitizer dispensers at each entrance, and trolleys to deliver meals to diners. The company says it is looking for a way to reopen its dining areas while keeping everyone safe.

    “We have tried to figure out how to keep our customers and employees safe, while maintaining a restaurant atmosphere,” McDonald’s Netherlands spokeswoman Eunice Koekkoek said in an interview with Reuters. “These are drastic changes, but we hope to make them in a way that customers don’t notice them too much.”

    Restaurants and bars in the Netherlands remain under many of the restrictions found in the U.S. McDonald’s mitigation steps, if they prove successful, might be tried elsewhere, including the U.S.

    McDonald’s is looking at ways it can return to some semblance of normal while making customers and associates feel safe. One thing the company is considering is a system of automated trolleys that would deliver food to tables. It’s an idea that was gaining traction well before the pandemic, as a labor-saving device.

    The company said it is also considering hand-washing stations at the entrance and an employee stationed behind a plastic screen who would direct customers to their place in line.

    A challenging time for restaurants

    Restaurants face more challenges than most businesses in adapting to the post-pandemic world if people must be kept apart. Some restaurants have been able to keep their heads above water with their takeout and delivery business, but many are worried that prolonged social distancing will put them out of business.

    McDonald’s is betting that it’s new system will make the difference, and it is prepared to implement the changes at 180 of its 252 stores in The Netherlands.

    “On average this will allow us to serve around 66 percent of our normal number of customers,” Koekkoek said.

    Even with the changes, Koekkeok says McDonald’s doesn’t expect to reopen its dining rooms before June. And she admits that making the changes at 180 restaurants will be a challenge. But if the changes prove effective, it’s very possible that consumers could see these adaptations in other countries in the future, including the U.S.

    Fast food dining rooms in most states remain closed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but McDonald’s plans for the reopening may be on displa...
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    McDonald’s adds chicken sandwiches to its breakfast menu

    The company continues to play chicken with its competitors by improving its offerings

    McDonald’s doesn’t care if the chicken came before the egg or not, evidently. The fast food king has announced that it’s adding chicken sandwiches to its breakfast menu at all of its 16,000+ U.S. outlets. 

    The company has been feeling the heat from Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes in regards to chicken, and Wendy’s and Dunkin’ are also both trying to elbow in on its breakfast business. 

    “We’re giving our customers more of what they crave: mouthwatering chicken and breakfast options,” the company’s vice president of menu innovation, Linda VanGosen, said in a statement.

    The latest breakfast additions to McDonald’s menu are Chicken McGriddles and McChicken Biscuit sandwiches. Since its foray into the breakfast market courtesy of the Egg McMuffin back in 1971, McDonald’s has done its best to fend off competitors like Taco Bell with its breakfast burritos by trying to stay ahead of the field with innovations like McGriddles and the introduction of All Day Breakfast.

    Time is of the essence

    In announcing the new breakfast items, McDonald’s also crowed about its improved drive-thru wait times -- a 20-second improvement in 2019. While 20 seconds may not seem like a lot, VanGossen said that the chain showed its fastest drive-thru time in two years in 2019. 

    McDonald’s is lagging way behind its peers and is doing all it can to make every minute count. Dunkin’ owns the speed category and is a good minute-plus faster than McDonald’s. 

    “Customers spent an average of 255 seconds from speaker to order window in 2019, about 20 seconds longer than in 2018,” noted QSR’s Rachel Pittman. “And with menus becoming more complex and lanes possibly getting more crowded with not only drive-thru customers but also those picking up mobile orders, it's going to be difficult for brands to shave off seconds moving forward.”

    McDonald’s doesn’t care if the chicken came before the egg or not, evidently. The fast food king has announced that it’s adding chicken sandwiches to its b...
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    McDonald’s to add MSG to its new chicken sandwich

    Analysts suggest it means McDonald’s is serious about competing in the chicken sandwich wars

    McDonald’s has signaled that it’s serious about competing in the chicken sandwich wars. It’s added monosodium glutamate (MSG) to chicken sandwiches at more than 230 of its outlets in Texas and Tennessee, where it is test marketing the new product. 

    MSG was once widely used in Chinese restaurants to enhance flavor, but it fell out of favor after a since-discredited study linked it to wide-ranging health issues. If you think McDonald’s is taking a risk by adding it to its chicken sandwich, consider this: both Popeye’s and Chick-Fil-A add the ingredient to theirs.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given MSG a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation. The FDA has discounted the popular misconception that MSG can cause headaches and other feelings of discomfort after blind studies failed to find evidence of that reaction.

    A McDonald’s spokesperson told CBS News that customers who have tried the chicken sandwich have had no complaints. 

    "So far, our customers in Houston and Knoxville have had a positive response to the test of our Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Deluxe Crispy Chicken sandwich,” the spokesperson said. “Feedback and insights from the test will inform our decisions moving forward."

    Cindy Goody, McDonald's chief nutritionist, said customers can always find information about ingredients and nutritional value to help them make “informed food choices when they order from the McDonald's menu." 

    Keeping up with Popeye’s

    McDonald’s has been under pressure from franchisees to counter the popularity of the crispy chicken sandwiches offered at rival Popeye’s and Chick-Fil-A. Over the summer and fall, Popeye’s new sandwich was wildly popular and caused a social media sensation.

    The competition to sell fried chicken sandwiches may suggest a reversal in a recent trend toward more healthy food choices. Kentucky Fried Chicken reportedly changed its name to KFC, in part, to de-couple from the word “fried.” 

    Chick-Fil-A, Popeye’s, and now McDonald’s seem to be embracing it. According to FastFoodNutrition.org, Popeye’s chicken sandwich contains 699 calories, with 55 percent of them from fat.

    McDonald’s has signaled that it’s serious about competing in the chicken sandwich wars. It’s added monosodium glutamate (MSG) to chicken sandwiches at more...
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    McDonald’s to automate its drive-thru lanes under new tech partnership

    The move is the latest in the company’s attempt to modernize

    As part of an effort to modernize its restaurants, McDonald’s will be adding artificial intelligence features to its drive-thru lanes. 

    The restaurant chain announced on Tuesday that it’s acquiring tech startup Apprente, which has for the past two years been working on building a “voice-based conversational system that delivers a human-level customer service experience.” 

    Applied to McDonald’s drive-thrus, Apprente’s technology -- which understands different accents and multiple languages -- could help speed up service. The fast-food chain says ramping up its digital capabilities is “fundamental” to its tech-focused growth plan, which was put in place as a way to meet “rising expectations from our customers” and to streamline the ordering process.

    “Apprente’s gifted team, and the technology they have developed, will form McD Tech Labs, a new group integrated in our Global Technology team that will take our culture of innovation one step further,” McDonald’s president and CEO Steve Easterbrook in a statement. 

    A more tech-focused experience 

    Last year, McDonald’s unveiled its plan to incorporate more technology into its locations. The company said it planned to invest $6 billion into a modernization effort that would involve the addition of self-serve kiosks, digital menu boards, and modernized dining rooms with new furniture.

    In March, McDonald’s announced that it would be purchasing a technology company called Dynamic Yield. The fast food giant said Dynamic Yield would be helping it personalize its drive-thru experience through the addition of technology. The firm’s machine learning technology gives McDonald’s menu displays the ability to change based on different factors, such as current weather or customers’ previous menu selections. 

    “With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalized experiences for our customers,” Easterbrook said of the acquisition back in March.

    The technology was added to more than 8,000 of the chain’s drive-thrus after the deal was struck. McDonald’s is aiming to have the technology in place at almost all of its U.S. and Australian drive-thrus by the end of 2019.

    As part of an effort to modernize its restaurants, McDonald’s will be adding artificial intelligence features to its drive-thru lanes. The restaurant c...
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