Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll no doubt have heard that McDonald’s is trialing a new do-it-yourself concept store at their Castle Hill store in Sydney’s outer west. Titled “Create Your Taste”, the concept is designed to bring a more gourmet and interactive element to a fast food joint that I generally only visit for soft serves, french fries and hash browns when I have PMS. Crude, but true!
Of course, despite my usual apathy against McDonald’s, the curious cat in me simply had to try this new DIY concept so K and I drove out to Castle Hill one hot afternoon.
There are “Create Your Taste” signs all over the McDonald’s. It’s only five simple steps to make your own burger. Only five steps, it’s completely idiot-proof!
There’s two sleek kiosks on the left hand side of the main entrance. The touchscreen is easy enough to operate, and you’re taken through the five steps to Create Your Taste. You can choose the easy way out of course, and opt for one of their new ‘specialty build burgers’ which include the Homestyle Oz or the Chipotle.
I chose to create my own and gradually worked my way through the system, choosing my burger bun, number of patties, cheese, extra toppings, sauce, and whether or not I wanted to turn my final creation into a meal deal. As you finish placing your order, the system asks you to nominate a general seating area as well, so that the servers can find you easily in the restaurant.
After finding a table, you’re expected to attach your order docket to a little clipboard that now sits on all the tables in Castle Hill McDonalds. It’s a big change from McDonald’s usual modus operandi of having their customers hover around the counter waiting to pick up their meals. Ten minutes after I placed my order, my burger was delivered to my table by a fifteen-year-old who’s probably being grossly underpaid.
Nothing screams gourmet more than food being served on a wooden board, and fries served in a little wire holder. The plastic cup of frozen Coke spoils the effect somewhat, but just remember that it’s a gourmet artisan meal!
My burger was a bit extreme, I’ll admit that much. It’s a 100% Angus beef patty on a brioche bun with Swiss cheese, smoked bacon, egg, tomato, lettuce, pickles, caramelised grilled onions and chilli jam. Combined with a medium fries (I feel like what was in the wire basket was less than a usual serve of medium fries) and a medium frozen Coke, the whole meal cost $14.65, about 50% more than a usual McDonald’s value meal.
It was a surprisingly satisfying burger – a great combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavours. The sweetness of the brioche bun and caramelised onions worked really well with the salty bacon and crisp fresh lettuce. All in all I’d say it’s one of the better burgers I’ve eaten at a fast food joint – exceeding perhaps even Grilld’s offerings.
There are some pros to this DIY ordering system:
- There’s more variety than what you would find on a standard McDonald’s menu – the number of extras and toppings is very impressive.
- After you place your order, it tells you how many kilojoules is in your full meal. In my case, it was 2264kj for my meal – very useful information as I’m still counting kilojoules and technically watching what I eat.
- Considering the customisation involved, it’s still not an expensive meal – $14.65 is pretty good considering it also comes with fries and a drink. Grill’d would charge a lot more.
On the flip side, there’s some definite cons as well:
- Even though there’s only five steps, it did still take me about five minutes to go through and place my order, then ten minutes after that to receive the order. If all McDonald’s stores were to switch to using this system, it would take the “fast” out of “fast food”.
- This isn’t helped by the fact that you can (as far as I could tell) only order one burger at a time, rather than continually adding burgers to the same order. This could mean that a family of four could spend twenty minutes standing at the kiosk ordering their burgers before finally getting to sit down and eat.
- The system isn’t quite sophisticated enough to deal with intricacies of very specific orders.
The last point is probably the sticking point for me. What if for instance, I wanted three slices of Swiss cheese on my burger, instead of a single slice because I wanted it to be super cheesy? The system only allows you to choose the item, but not choose quantity, which seems to be an oversight. It’ll be interesting to see if they consider tweaking the system to allow customisation to that degree.
All in all, it was an interesting visit for the novelty factor alone. While I won’t be rushing back out to Castle Hill any time soon to try it again, I might consider it as an option in the same way as I would consider Grill’d for burgers, if the concept ends up getting rolled out across all McDonald’s stores.