We tried McDonald’s answer to the fast-casual burger boom — and it could be the future of the chain

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Hollis Johnson

McDonald’s dark days are over.

The company’s turnaround plan implemented last year has taken hold – restaurant sales are soaring and the chain soundly beat estimates for first-quarter earnings.

McDonald’s has introduced all-day breakfast and a new McPick 2 value menu as part of the change.

But another facet of the face-lift is a huge leap in quality: the “Create Your Taste” custom-burger option.

Locations nationwide now have touch-screen kiosks that allow customers to choose exactly what goes into their custom burger, including multiple bun options, specialty sauces, and unique toppings.

Is it enough to restore McDonald’s burger clout in the face of better burger chains like Shake Shack? We took a closer look.


You can order anything off the menu from the touch-screen kiosks as you would at the counter — but the Create Your Taste burger can only be ordered from the kiosks, not at the register. Also, no cash or coupons at the kiosks. Better have a card handy.

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Hollis Johnson

The kiosk gives you the choice of the quarter-pound burger or the one-third pound burger to start — although now, there’s often a custom chicken sandwich option as well, either grilled or fried. You can add as many patties as you’d like for an additional charge. And of course, bacon is a must-have option.

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Hollis Johnson

There’s a decent number of choices. There are four types of cheese from which to choose, and several bun options. You can even make your burger a lettuce wrap – although I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Hollis Johnson

The array of toppings is impressive — I can honestly say I never expected to see guacamole or chili-lime tortilla chips as options at the Golden Arches. Pick as many as you’d like as there are no additional charges for toppings.

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Hollis Johnson

It’s the same deal with the sauces, too. And yes, you can now add the hallowed Big Mac sauce to your custom burger, along with more adventurous dressings.

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Hollis Johnson

The kiosks are fairly intuitive and easy to use, apart from some vexing scrolling issues. You can order your custom burger to go or to stay — if you have the time, I’d try eating in, because it’s like no McDonald’s experience you’ve had before.

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Hollis Johnson

If you choose to eat in, you simply take a numbered locator from the kiosk and go sit down. The tables are connected to a locator system that tells the servers — yes, servers at McDonald’s — where you’re sitting. So sit back, relax, and let the burger come to you.

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Hollis Johnson

Within eight minutes, your burger arrives optimistically open-faced, as if they know you’ll want to meticulously inspect your first custom McDonald’s burger for quality and accuracy. I’ve ordered them several times, and I’ve yet to have a wrong order.

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Hollis Johnson

If you choose to order a burger meal, you’ll get a drink and fries on the side. The fries, like the burger, are served in a rather trendy metal mesh basket that divulges McDonald’s aims to bring their experience up to a fast-casual level.

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Hollis Johnson

The ingredients are typically of shockingly good quality. The tomatoes are crisp and red, and the lettuce is vibrant and fresh — far cries from the anemic and pale toppings of fast food yesteryear. Even the bacon has a crispiness and sheen to it that suggests a certain level of respectability.

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Hollis Johnson

For my custom creation, I added Wisconsin cheddar cheese, Mac sauce, ketchup, pickles, red onions, lettuce, fresh tomato, and bacon. An upright, stalwart burger with a sense of authenticity and no fuss.

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Hollis Johnson

I always choose the “artisan” bun, as it seems to hold up better to multiple sauces and toppings without succumbing to sogginess or spongy despair. The burger looks — dare I say it — appetizing. This is no squashed McDouble in the bottom of a bag. Nay, it’s downright handsome.

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Hollis Johnson

The beef itself is savory and ever so slightly charred. Perhaps it’s simply a trick of the mind — Eating custom McDonald’s from a fancy wire basket? Impossible! — but it honestly tastes good. It’s satisfying without being too much and, more important, it manages to avoid the greasy unease of a fast-food burger.

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Hollis Johnson

The Create Your Taste program is incredibly promising. McDonald’s is looking to elevate its status in the fast-food fray, and this is helping. Combined with the svelte restaurant renovations, the paring back of the menus, and the launch of the exalted all-day breakfast, McDonald’s future is looking very sunny.

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Hollis Johnson