McDonald's aims for transparency in new videos featuring food

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McDonald’s is answering customer questions about its food as part of its customer service and branding strategies.

Over the past several weeks, McDonald’s has promoted several videos on its Twitter feed responding to questions from customers, which the McDonald’s Canada marketing team made for its new website “Our Food. Your Questions.

The video getting the most attention features McDonald’s executive chef Dan Coudreaut, who answers the question: “What is in the sauce that is in the Big Mac?” In response, Coudreaut concocted the sauce in his home kitchen from seven store-bought ingredients and assembled a homemade version of the Big Mac.

“Quite honestly, the ingredients have been available in the restaurant or on the Internet for many years, so it’s not really a secret,” Coudreaut said in the video.

The video has received more than 1.2 million views on YouTube and has been shared on major media outlets like ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The Canadian system’s efforts to answer customer questions about McDonald’s food — such as what goes into its Chicken McNuggets and why burgers served in restaurants look different from advertisements — is McDonald’s latest effort in transparency.

McDonald’s USA spokeswoman Julie Pottebaum wrote in an email to Nation’s Restaurant News that the chain has run several programs “to showcase the quality story of McDonald’s food,” including its latest television campaign to introduce consumers to its suppliers.

“While ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’ is specific to McDonald’s Canada, in the U.S., for example, we have invited bloggers and actual customers into our headquarters and restaurants for a transparent look at how our food makes its way to the front counter,” she wrote.

Transparency and quality messaging have long been a part of restaurant marketing, but their application in an age of social media has been top of mind since an April 2009 incident in which Domino’s Pizza employees posted a video to YouTube of themselves contaminating food, causing an overnight controversy. Chief executive J. Patrick Doyle, who was the chain’s president at the time, posted a response to YouTube to control the damage to Domino’s reputation.

The next year, Domino’s kicked off a wave of behind-the-scenes advertising with its “Pizza Turnaround” campaign, which featured Doyle and other executives acknowledging the shortcomings of Domino’s former pizza recipe and touting the quality of its reformulated product.

Other chains have followed suit, with McDonald’s advertising its suppliers, and Culver’s featuring founder and chief executive Craig Culver in commercials.

Customer interest in McDonald’s food remains high, though the brand cannot always control who supplies the answers. Over the past few weeks, an “Ask Me Anything” conversation with a former McDonald’s crew member was posted to Reddit and went viral, appearing on The Atlantic’s website with the headline “Four McDonald’s Secrets You Never Knew You Needed.”

Among the “secrets” were how to order a sandwich resembling the Big Mac for less money, and which items can be ordered from a “secret menu,” including a McKinley Mac — a Big Mac made with Quarter Pounder patties — or a McLeprichon, which is a Shamrock Shake mixed with a chocolate shake.

In a statement from McDonald’s Canada provided to Nation’s Restaurant News, the brand indicated that its “Our Food. Your Questions.” website is not a reaction to negative attention on the Web, but responds to common frequently asked questions.

“McDonald’s Canada has a long history of leadership related to providing full nutrition and ingredient disclosure,” the company wrote. “With this new social-media platform, McDonald’s Canada is taking this transparency and openness even further by directly answering customers’ food questions online.”

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 33,500 restaurants around the world, including more than 14,000 in the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN