A McDonalds manager offered an 'Ask Me Anything' thread on Reddit a couple of days ago. He fielded lots of questions, and he (and other McDonalds employees who chimed in) had some very interesting responses. Here's a brief selection.
Q: Being an employee who is more familiar with where the food comes from, would you consider it better or worse than most people think?
A: The items marketed as 'healthy options' are worse than you'd think. Deep fried chicken goes into the wraps, the veggie patties are deep fried, and the salad dressings are filled with rubbish. The meat however, is good and is freshly grilled. It's 100% local beef flank and doesn't even use any binders like egg or rusk that you'd find even in the 'good brands' from the supermarket. The milk is from 'organic' farms. The breakfast menu uses real free range eggs. The chicken however, is pre-cooked and breaded before arriving to us frozen from Thailand.
Q: What is the largest order you have ever received?
A: We sometimes get entire schools of children coming in. We seat about 300 and we can have one order of 200+ kids come in. The worst thing is they don't know what they want until they get to the counter. We once had an order of 200 veggie deli sandwiches without a warning (they're the more inconvenient item to make, along with filet-o-fish). Panic in the kitchen!
Q: I just noticed that, locally at least, the dollar menu has disappeared. Was it cutting into store profits that much to sell McDoubles or Sausage McMuffins for a dollar?
A: I believe part of the issue is that the dollar menu is what's called a "loss leader" in business. It's cheap, often so cheap that the company makes very little (or sometimes even loses) money on it, but it gets you in the door and hopefully you will buy other items (like soda or coffee) that have larger profit margins while you are there. What fast food places didn't expect, and are now raising prices or removing the dollar menu to compensate for this, is that during a recession and in poorer areas, people got smart and ONLY order the dollar items now. So that hope of making money on the higher profit margin items didn't work out because of consumer buying trends.
Q: Can you confirm the validity of the "Secret Menu"? Also, what is the one item you would recommend customers do not order?
A: You can order from the 'Secret Menu'. Just like with any of our sandwiches, you can add, remove or change ingredients by special request. These are called 'grill orders' (i.e. Big Mac no pickle). The items on the 'secret menu' weren't invented by anyone officially at McDonald's, it's just a random persons guide to burgers you could potentially 'hack' at McDonald's. Order one and the workers might not know it by name (i.e. Land, Air and Sea burger or the McGangBang) but if you explain what it is, and are willing to pay for all the ingredients, it's just another 'grill order' that we can make up. DON'T order... the grilled chicken. It's horrible frozen chicken that we defrost and steam and it's a bit gelatinous.
Q: What do you think is at the core of McDonald's problems (massive sales losses and store closings) lately?
A: I honestly think McDonald's is out of date. It's the biggest and most widespread of all the fast food joints but somehow stays a step behind the competition. It's like Microsoft. How come outlook and internet explorer are the worst but from the most widespread company?
Sub-A: If Microsoft sold onion rings, I think I might buy more of their products.
Sub-sub-A: No way, man. The last thing I want is a red onion ring of death.
There are many more at the link. Entertaining reading. I have to admit, the thought of a 'red onion ring of death' has a certain finesse to it . . .
Commenting on the discussion, the Independent offers these definitions of some of the items on the 'Secret Menu'.
Secret Menu items include 'The Land, Sea and Air' which combines beef, fish, and chicken in one monstrous burger. It is a Big Mac with both a Fillet-o-Fish and a chicken burger placed inside it.
The 'Monster Mac' is a BigMac with eight burgers in it and more of a challenge than a choice. You can wash it down with a Neopolitan Shake – a three flavour milshake of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.
The 'McGangBang', a McChicken Sandwich inside a Double Cheeseburger, is the most well-known "secret" order.
Again, more at the link.