Can a dash of guacamole and some caramelized onions bump McDonald's into the better-burger category?
Last week, the Golden Arches began the nationwide rollout of its Signature Crafted Recipes sandwiches, part of the company's plan to win back customers from rivals. The chain said earlier this year that it lost more than 500 million visits since 2012 to its competitors.
McDonald's has long struggled to find a balance between offering value and premium options to its patrons. When it has shifted too far in one direction, it has usually lost ground with customers on the other side of the spectrum.
Over the last couple years, McDonald's has stressed its value propositions, including dollar menus and All-Day Breakfast. Now, the restaurant has begun promoting healthier, more upscale options in a hope to come back to center.
The Signature Crafted Recipes can be customized in three flavors: Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon, and Maple Bacon Dijon. The new sandwiches cost between $5 and $7, on average, depending on your location and are on par with the prices at other chains in the better-burger category.
So far, the new sandwiches have met with some fanfare, as customers found the departure from McDonald's typical burgers and chicken refreshing and tasty. However, others found the burger giant's new menu items to be underwhelming and not worth the price.
CNBC decided to see for itself. Since the Golden Arches hopes to compete with chains like Five Guys and Smashburger, we wanted to see how the Signature Crafted Recipes stack up against these chains' signature burgers. To standardize the test, we sampled only burgers, not the chicken options. Also, we ordered all the McDonald's sandwiches with artisan bread, although a sesame bun option is also available.
To get a baseline for comparison, I started by tasting the burgers from Smashburger and Five Guys.