McDonald’s confronts its junk food image

A Kung Pao chicken appetizer was made with Chicken McNuggets doused in sweet and sour sauce, and garnished with parsley. Slow-cooked beef was served with gnocchi fashioned out of McDonald’s french fries. The dishes aren’t intended for McDonald’s restaurants. Instead, the evening is part of a campaign by McDonald’s to shake its reputation for serving cheap, unhealthy food.

We’ve got to make sure that the food is relevant …

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson in 2014 remarks

At a time when Americans are paying closer attention to what they eat, the company is trying to sway public opinion by first reaching out to the reporters, bloggers and other so-called “influencers” who write and speak about McDonald’s. In the past 18 months, the chain has introduced the option to substitute egg whites in breakfast sandwiches and rolled out chicken wraps as its first menu item with cucumbers. Last fall, it announced plans to give people the choice of a salad instead of fries in combo meals. And in coming months, Mandarin oranges will be offered in Happy Meals, with other fruits being explored as well.

People just don’t think of McDonald’s as having that premium quality.

Sara Senatore, restaurant industry analyst