The Future of McDonald’s Burgers: Will the Upgrade Boost Sales?

The Future of McDonald’s Burgers: Will the Upgrade Boost Sales?

McDonald’s, the fast-food giant, has managed to outperform its rivals in recent quarters, thanks to price hikes across its menu and an influx of higher-income customers. However, the company faced a decline in U.S. traffic during the third quarter, as low-income diners reduced their visits. As McDonald’s prepares to announce its fourth-quarter results, analysts are predicting a modest U.S. same-store sales growth of 4.4%, significantly lower than the 8.1% growth seen in the previous quarter. The pressure is on for McDonald’s and its competitors to find new ways to grow their customer base and increase foot traffic.

Introducing McDonald’s “Best Burger” Initiative

To address this challenge, McDonald’s has launched its “Best Burger” initiative, focusing on making small but meaningful improvements to its core burgers. The aim is to enhance the quality, flavor, and overall eating experience of their iconic menu items while staying true to the tastes loved by their customers. This initiative primarily involves changes to the cooking and assembly processes, rather than altering the beef patty itself. The modifications include allowing the patties more breathing room on the grill, cooking fewer patties at a time, adding onions before cooking to enhance flavor, keeping the cooked patties hotter, and upgrading the buns and cheese. McDonald’s has been rolling out these better-tasting burgers gradually since last year, but they have now been launched nationwide.

McDonald’s most important international markets, such as Australia and Canada, have already implemented the “Best Burger” initiative and have seen positive results. The improvements to the burgers could be attributed, at least in part, to the outperformance of these markets compared to others. By the end of 2023, McDonald’s expects to introduce the upgraded burgers in 70 markets, with plans to have them available in nearly all markets by 2026.

The Role of Marketing and Advertising

McDonald’s is leveraging its classic Hamburglar character, which has been featured in the company’s ads since the 1970s, to promote the “Best Burger” initiative. The chain aired a TV commercial in markets with the upgraded burgers, where the Hamburglar highlighted the improved taste. McDonald’s website now prominently displays an endorsement from the iconic character on its homepage. These marketing efforts aim to create awareness and generate interest in the enhanced burgers.

While the “Best Burger” initiative has received positive feedback, opinions on its potential for significant growth vary among industry analysts. Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem believes the initiative could be an “upside driver” for McDonald’s in 2024. However, the overall impact remains uncertain. Analyst Mark Kalinowski estimates that the changes could potentially increase overall sales by 0.5% in 2024. Some analysts, like Peter Saleh from BTIG, remain skeptical and view the changes as part of a continuous effort to improve food quality rather than a major growth driver.

Despite the lack of local-level advertising, McDonald’s has seen promising signs that customers are eager to try the improved burgers. Analyst Alton Stump from Loop Capital reports that the “Better Burger” has already driven a 10% increase in burger transactions on average, indicating a positive response from consumers.

McDonald’s faces the challenge of attracting new customers and increasing foot traffic in a changing fast-food landscape. While the “Best Burger” initiative shows promise, its precise impact on sales growth is yet to be fully determined. McDonald’s must continue to find innovative ways to stay relevant and provide value to its customers while maintaining the loyalty of its existing customer base. Only time will tell if these changes will secure its position as a leader in the fast-food industry.


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