In the latest experiment to revamp its reputation, McDonald’s has opened a new high-tech restaurant offering bespoke burgers, a deli-style salad bar, gourmet coffees and fresh pastries.
The McDonald’s Next in Hong Kong is the first in a new breed of branches, as the burger chain re-invents itself to fit with its customers lifestyles amid falling global sales.
The branch, in the Admiralty district, has touch-screen computers where people can place their orders without queuing for a counter, and self-ordering kiosks.
Hong Kong resident Mei Tan heads to the snazzy new outlet for FEMAIL to see how it measures up.
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Hong Kong resident Mei Tan holds up her ‘healthy burger’ which had cubed sweet potato and chunky asparagus stalks as burger toppings
A colourful salad bar featuring 19 different ingredients and sauces takes prominence next to a gourmet sandwich counter
Expecting the usual bright colours and a creepy clown figure at the door, my lunch buddies and I were surprised to discover that the new McDonald’s Next adopted a minimalist approach.
The muted tones, clean lines and open kitchen comes as a refreshing change from the iconic but garish yellow on red.
A colourful salad bar featuring 19 different ingredients and sauces takes prominence next to a gourmet sandwich counter.
If it hadn’t been for the Golden Arches on the grey wall just outside, we would never have guessed that this was the McDonald’s of our childhood days.
Disappointing: ‘The colourful salad looked beautiful but was so underwhelming we could’ve easily picked a tastier, healthier and more wallet friendly salad at one of the many salad bars in Hong Kong,’ Mei said
Being the first McDonald’s Next, people are naturally curious when headlines around the world claim that you can now have Big Mac with a side of quinoa.
The lines snake out to the front door with the likes of bankers in business suits nipping out for a quick lunch standing next to retirees looking for a quick cheap meal (value deals with Filet-O-Fish and chicken nuggets at HK$9 [81p]).
McDonald’s in Hong Kong has long been known as a haven for the homeless (open 24 hours and some of the cheapest meals in HK) and outlets usually filled with the elderly and school children.
However, this swanky new McDonald’s seems to be attracting a more diverse crowd with its promise of quinoa.
Gourmet sandwiches anyone? Mei thought there were too many options and endless combos
Charging stations for your electronic devices (left) and the dimly lit interior of the posh branch (right)
When it came time to place our orders, instead of human interaction we were greeted by order machines.
Those wanting a burger can still order from the normal menu but instead of Big Mac, we opted to create our own 100 per cent Angus beef burgers, or choosing a healthy salad.
But with with far too many options, endless combos and add-ons, this fast food is fast no more.
After much deliberation I finally opted for a burger combo meal and, after adding all the healthy toppings I wanted, my bill came up to a whopping HK$140 (£12.53) – more expensive than some of the best gourmet patties in HK.
And my lunch pals didn’t fare any better. An almost ‘naked’ topping free burger and crayfish soup combo cost HK$113.20 (£10.13) and a basic burger with no add-ons came up to HK$59 (£5.28).
No wonder this posh new McDonald’s can offer table service, charging stations for your electronic devices and Frank Sinatra looping in the background.
When my asparagus filled burger was served – yes, there is table service after 6pm or when they are not too busy – on a wooden board with fries in a mini deep fryer basket, I had no idea where to begin.
Piled high with three wooden skewers to hold it together, I begin to question the sensibility of offering cubed sweet potato and chunky asparagus stalks as burger toppings.
Albeit a healthy choice, the sweet potato cubes kept falling out and I ended up having to deconstruct my behemoth burger before I could fit it into my mouth.
Mei’s £12.53 burger was one of the most expensive she had ever eaten
The health conscious will be delighted to hear that the burger toppings are very simply grilled or roasted and even the beef patties are cooked with as little oil as possible.
Sadly, despite the promise of a healthy burger, the end result is a disappointing, dry, tasteless mound that looks better than it tastes.
If you’ve had a regular McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, you’ll know that the patty is saturated with oil – which is what makes the otherwise unpalatable patty flavourful and juicy.
Halfway through our burgers, my lunch buddies and I were so disappointed that we decided to share a salad to see if it fared better.
This was then I realised that the burgers and salad have essentially the same toppings; the burger I had created was just salad toppings piled over dry beef patties sandwiched between two buns.
As I packed our salad with gourmet sounding options, my anticipation for a good finale grew.
I skipped the much talked about Quinoa Cous Cous Mix in my salad as it looked more like a mushy mixture of said grains with frozen peas but heaped on the grilled chicken.
The verdict? Uninspiring.
The colourful salad looked beautiful but was so underwhelming we could have easily picked a tastier, healthier and more wallet-friendly option at one of the many salad bars in Hong Kong.
Sure, it is healthy but nobody said healthy food needs to be boring.
While I applaud McDonald’s for a step in the right direction, there are still a lot of improvements to be made.
It will be a while before I step back into a McDonald’s Next but don’t be surprised if you see me wolfing down a heart-clogging Big Mac in the wee hours of the morning after a drunken night out dancing.