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Love Making Choices? Hate It? McDonald's Caters to Both

Don't be surprised to see competitors start to do the same.
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by Nevin Barich, Fast Food Columnist for the Menuism Dining Blog

McDonald's is catering both to customers who love and hate making choices. While this may sound weird at first, don't be surprised to see competitors start to do the same.

First, the burger chain expanded its "Create Your Taste" customized sandwich platform to 30 stores in five additional U.S. states -- Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- with plans to bring the platform to more than 2,000 locations this year. The platform, which was initially launched in four Southern California stores, allows customers to bypass the counter and head to tablet-like kiosks where they can customize everything about their burger, including the type of bun, variety of cheese, toppings, and sauces. The platform will also be expanded to include chicken sandwiches.

This is a great concept by McDonald's. These days, it's not uncommon for customers -- whether they're older and have been customers for years, or younger millennials who like more control over their sandwiches -- to ask for modifications to their fast-food sandwiches. Burger King's longtime "Have It Your Way" slogan expressed that idea, so the notion is nothing new. But McDonald's is taking this concept to the next level through automation.

Now, for those of you who hate having choices:

Two days after expanding the customized platform, McDonald's announced that starting in January, it would cut eight food products and reduce the number of Extra Value Meals on its U.S. menus in a bid to speed up service and bolster sales.

At first glance, this move may seem contradictory. How does McDonald's offer additional choices to increase business on one hand, and then eliminate choices on the other hand in order to achieve the same goal? The difference is subtle, but important: With the customized sandwich platform, the customers themselves are choosing to have more choices. With the more varied standard menu, more choices were being forced on them.

Fast-food customers aren't monolithic. They want more and fewer choices. If they can meet both needs in a single place, all the better. If McDonald's is successful, expect others to follow suit.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

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