LOS ANGELES: Food influencers raved about a five-course meal they were served at a dinner party hosted by celebrity chef Neal Fraser earlier this year. There was just one catch: they didn’t know the meal was made entirely from McDonald’s ingredients.
The party, conceived by the McDonald’s Operators’ Association of Southern California in partnership with Porter Novelli, is part of the food chain’s Good Inside campaign that began earlier this year. Although the event was held in February, the association released a video of the dinner on Monday.
"McDonald’s has three key priorities with the Good Inside platform: food, employees, and the community," explained Ted Sabarese, SVP and North American creative director at Porter Novelli. "Good Inside touches on the idea that there is something good inside that wrapper you are about to open and about the way [McDonald’s] employees treat you now."
The dinner party’s main goal, said Sabarese, was to quell the popular notion among Americans that the chain does not serve real food. Fraser was there to "show, not tell" attendees about McDonald’s "real and fresh ingredients," he said.
Earlier this year, Kraft Mac & Cheese also used a "show, not tell" strategy as it revealed a new recipe to consumers.
"So many people say, ‘I don’t go to McDonald’s because it is junk food,’ and if you ask them what would change their minds, they say, ‘If the burgers didn’t have fillers or preservatives,’" Sabarese said. "But McDonald’s food doesn’t have fillers, preservatives, or artificial ingredients, and there is this lack of understanding about what McDonald’s has done in the past few years to change and try to listen to what all the complaints have been about."
The 40 Los Angeles food influencers at the dinner party, including chef Eric Crowley and lifestyle blogger Roshonda Payne, can be heard throughout the video complimenting the food before the McDonald’s connection is revealed.
"We were happy to have [Fraser] work with us because just before we did this experience, his restaurant Redbird was named the number one restaurant in Los Angeles," said Sabarese.
The Good Inside campaign is solely focused on consumers based in Southern California. However, if the effort performs well in that region, Sabarese said Porter’s hope is for McDonald’s corporate leadership to expand it nationally.
Southern California is a pilot region for many McDonald’s programs, said Sabarese. For instance, some McDonald’s restaurants in the region have table service. Since March, Southern California restaurants have also been offering Breakfast Bowls and Chobani Greek Yogurt in the chain’s parfaits and McCafé Smoothies.
The McDonald’s Operators’ Association of Southern California is comprised of more than 600 franchised and company-owned McDonald’s restaurants in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.
"We also work with the owner operators in Chicago, so our Chicago team is seeing what types of activations we could do to get the same kind of results in that region," added Sabarese.
Over the last two years, McDonald’s has gathered feedback from Southern California customers about what they want to see at the restaurant. Local owners and operators worked with the company and suppliers to introduce concepts based on the feedback, explained Max Gallegos, marketing director for the Southern California region at McDonald’s U.S.A.
"Our goal is to tell our Southern California story and show customers that we’re not only listening, but we’re committed to being more transparent about our food and ingredients," he said.
The February dinner generated international media coverage and sparked a conversation, added Gallegos.
"We can’t share local sales figures, but the customer response to what they’ve seen from us so far has been incredibly positive," he said. "We’ve also seen an incredible increase in engagement with Southern California social media – in some cases it’s even doubled over what we were seeing last year."
Separately, McDonald’s will engage consumers with a Facebook Live video event Wednesday to celebrate National Burger Day. Improvisational artist Bevin will reveal three paintings inspired by the Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The paintings will be put up for auction on eBay with all of the proceeds going to Ronald McDonald House Charities.