There's no bigger name in the fast-food game than McDonald's. Just seeing a pair of Golden Arches is enough to evoke greasy Happy Meal memories in countless people. But are today's customers buying Big Macs simply out of habit more than anything else?
Culturally and financially, Mickey D's enjoys the top spot in the industry. No other burger chain on the planet can compete in terms of brand recognition, accessibility, and profitability on a global scale. Boasting over 40,000 locations worldwide and consistent annual revenues north of $20 billion, McDonald's is as much an institution these days as it is a business. Every town has a library, a school, and chances are, a McDonald's, too.
Even this year, in the face of a shaky economy and looming recession, McDonald's continues to report strong sales and even exceed earnings estimates. "At McDonald's, we perform well in good times and in bad, so that gives us optimism as we go through the rest of the year," CEO Chris Kempczinski said during a recent conference call.
Fascinatingly, however, the mega successful chain's strong sales don't always seem to reflect consumer sentiment. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index's latest report, McDonald's ranks last in terms of customer satisfaction (69 out of 100) among fast food chains. For comparison's sake, Chick-fil-A claimed the top ACSI spot with 85 customer satisfaction points out of 100. Another recent poll released at the end of last year saw McDonald's rank dead last in terms of customer loyalty among fast food brands as well.
McDonald's may have built its massive global brand by prioritizing convenience, but many recent changes made by the fast food leader have left patrons feeling more frustrated than satisfied. Let's take a look at six common fails that could ruin your next McDonald's order.
A dollar doesn't go nearly as far as it used to at Mickey D's. Higher prices for pretty much everything was the story of 2022, with domestic inflation peaking at around 9% last summer. While overall inflation has cooled a bit since then, prices at restaurants specifically show no signs of falling anytime soon. Even McDonald's, a fast food chain synonymous with affordability, has raised prices this year—and customers are taking note.
TikToker @hellomatthewlong's recently pointed out that a single McDonald's hash brown at his local restaurant cost an astounding $2.29. The post went viral a few months ago, and one commenter even said a hash brown can cost as much as $3.49 at certain McDonald's locations in California.
Speaking of potatoes, no visit to Mickey D's is complete without some fries, but even these iconic menu items have ballooned in price. While menu prices vary by location, a large fries these days will likely cost you somewhere around $4 to $5. "I never order fries. A large is like $5 now where I live. Not worth it at all," one Redditor commented earlier this year.
What about sandwiches? Once upon a time, hungry customers could order a McChicken for just $1. Nowadays, that same sandwich can cost as much as $5. TikToker @214bryann's recent post feigning tears over the McChicken's current price went viral with over two million views.
Meals hardly offer price relief either. In Connecticut, for example, a Big Mac combo meal can cost as much as $16.89.
Onions aren't for everyone
Earlier this year, McDonald's announced an exciting new plan to upgrade and refresh how the chain prepares its signature burgers. Per the brand's press release, by the end of 2024 all domestic units will serve the Big Mac, McDouble, classic cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, and hamburger with "softer, pillowy buns freshly toasted to a golden brown" and "perfectly melted cheese".
McDonald's also plans to begin adding white onions to burger patties while they're still on the grill. While Mickey D's says this approach will supply a "juicier, caramelized flavor" to its burgers, the change is a notable departure from McDonald's typical practice of using dehydrated-then-rehydrated onions as burger toppings.
The onion announcement has garnered a mixed reaction from McDonald's customers to say the least. "I hate onions, literally can't stomach them. McDonald's will be dead to me if they make this change where I am," one Redditor commented on a post reporting the change.
"As someone who hates onions, I'm worried about McDonald's new policy of cooking onions directly on the grill. I won't eat White Castle burgers for this very reason," tweeted another concerned patron in response to the news.
Others with either an onion allergy or intolerance are already wondering if their days of eating at McDonald's will soon be over. "I have a significant intolerance to onions. They make me quite ill within 15 -20 mins. So when I heard about this new recipe McDonald's is rolling out, my first thought was I won't be able to eat burgers there," another Twitter user commented.
Pay more for less food? What sounds like a fast food nightmare is quickly turning into a reality for many McDonald's customers. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese looks like a massive, filling burger in advertisements, but a customer posted a side-by-side comparison of the real burger with its promotional image last year on Reddit—and the difference is striking.
The real Quarter Pounder looked absolutely paltry next to the promotional version of the burger. "Whoa I remember when actual quarter pounders looked similar to the billboard picture. This is sad. People need to stop going there," commented one user.
"Pathetic, their prices have shot through the roof and quality and size has plummeted. I've stopped going there!" wrote another Redditor.
Even more recently, a post shared on TikTok by @ahlaysia_ called attention to yet another shrinking menu item: apple slices. In the video, she explains that she usually stops by her local McDonald's every day to pick up a large fries, apple slices, and an iced tea. One day, however, she was upset to discover she had been given just two apple slices. She opens the sealed package on camera and pulls out the two slices to prove that she isn't "losing my mind."
"Shrinkflation is so real. Everything is getting smaller and the prices are going up it's insane," one user commented.
Bye-bye, bakery items
If you're a fan of the McCafé Bakery, prepare to be disappointed. The home of the Big Mac announced earlier this month it will be discontinuing—er, "phasing out"—its bakery lineup. This surprising news comes less than three years after the bakery items were first introduced.
"We're always listening to our fans and adjusting our menu based on what they crave. Starting this month, we'll be phasing out our McCafé Bakery line-up, including the Apple Fritter, Blueberry Muffin, and Cinnamon Roll," McDonald's said in a statement. "We know goodbyes are never easy—but fans can still satisfy their sweet tooth with our iconic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Baked Apple Pie and frozen desserts at restaurants nationwide."
It isn't clear exactly what led to this decision, but the baked goods will surely be missed by many customers. While most McDonald's locations stop serving breakfast at around 10:30 or 11 a.m., the McCafé Bakery lineup was available anytime, offering customers breakfast items all day and night. The burger chain plans to continue selling the items until inventory is totally depleted, so now may be your last chance to enjoy these baked goods before they're gone forever.
Ice cold fries
Actor Viggo Mortensen is probably best known for his iconic portrayal of Aragorn in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but you may be surprised to learn he's also something of a fast food philosopher. Here's what he told Esquire in 2015:
"The McDonald's french fry is unbelievable. When you bite into it, you think: It's so tasty, it can't be real. As soon as it gets cold, it turns to lard and flubble. I mean, have you ever tried to eat a McDonald's french fry that's gone cold? That's one of the circles of hell. The gulf between the warm, fresh, lightly salted McDonald's french fry and the cold McDonald's french fry is as great a gulf as any I know."
Anyone who's ever bitten into a fry from McDonald's that's been around for longer than around a half hour knows exactly what Mortensen is talking about. McDonald's has some of the best fries anywhere when they're hot, but once those spuds start cooling down it becomes an entirely different story. What was once delicious turns borderline uneatable within a matter of minutes.
Cold fries are a common and longstanding complaint among McDonald's customers, and many can't help but be passionate about the temperature of their potatoes. Just last summer, an upset customer actually called the police on his local McDonald's after allegedly being given cold fries with his order. From there, the story takes an even more bizarre turn: the upset customer was eventually arrested due to an outstanding warrant in connection with a prior murder charge.
If you're looking for a way to ensure you get piping hot fries the next time you roll through a McDonald's drive-thru, one noteworthy Reddit post suggests asking for no salt. That way, the fries will be delivered to your hands straight from the fryer.
Broken ice cream machines
The ice cream machines at McDonald's restaurants are broken so often the Golden Arches themselves crack jokes about it on social media. Indeed, being told the machine is broken at your local Mickey D's is something we've all experienced at some time or another.
There's even an entire website dedicated to tracking the operational status of McDonald's ice cream machines all over the world. Incredibly, a quick glance at the United States alone reveals a staggering number of broken machines. At the time this article was written, over 14% of all ice cream machines at McDonald's units were broken, and over 32% located in New York were malfunctioning.
While a broken ice cream machine can be super frustrating as a customer, keep in mind it's no fun for employees either when these devices fail. Just last month, a TikTok depicting a broken ice cream machine at a McDonald's posted by @scoooty98 collected tens of thousands of likes. "Since you guys wanna think that we're lying when we say our ice cream machine is broken," an employee says in the video before attempting to start the machine, producing spectacularly poor results. Ice cream sprays everywhere.