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Here's How New Items End Up On the McDonald's Menu, According to the CEO

How often does the first man of the company voice his culinary opinion?
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

The President and Chief Executive Officer of McDonald's Chris Kempczinski has held his current position for a little more than two years now, though he has been a top-level executive with the chain since 2015. Yet despite a multi-year run as a decision-maker with the brand, Kempczinski is humble about his impact on arguably the most important aspect of the chain's operation: the McDonald's menu.

Kempczinski told The David Rubenstein Show on Bloomberg that the menu development credit belongs to the Menu Team, assembled by the McDonald's Corporation. The team works closely with franchisees and customers through the process of innovating on and testing potential new menu items, he said.

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However, the CEO says he'll chime in from time to time, and voice his culinary opinion. "Occasionally, I might just say 'Hey, I might be interested in trying that," he said. When Rubenstein followed with the question: "But if you don't like it, what happens?" the CEO laughed and replied: "Nothing, ordinarily, other than just 'It's interesting that you didn't like it.'"

But there is one aspect of the menu where Kempczinski does execute his top-level authority, and that's in the protection of certain core McDonald's menu classics. "Where I will and do exercise CEO authority is around our core menu," Kempczinski said. "You can't touch the Big Mac, you can't touch the Quarter Pounder, you can't touch the fries, you can't the hamburger or cheeseburger without my approval."

All the other menu bells and whistles, however, are fair game. "But outside of the core menu, you have a lot of latitude, and certainly on new items," he added.

According to Thrillist, new fast-food menu items can take anywhere from a few months to several years to fully develop and then release. So it certainly sounds like each and every addition is scrutinized, whether or not the #1 man of the brand is involved.

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Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more