McDon­ald’s has opened the doors to its kitchens – we see what’s go­ing on

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT - @Cait_12 cait­lyn@7days.ae

By Cait­lyn Davey t is the fast food chain known for su­per­size meals, ques­tion­able nu­tri­tional con­tent and burg­ers that look ex­actly the same – at ev­ery sin­gle store across the globe.

McDon­ald’s has been seek­ing to over­come that stereo­type in re­cent years, with the in­tro­duc­tion of ‘healthy op­tions’ for din­ers of all ages.

And now it is invit­ing the public be­hind the scenes and into the kitchens as part of at­tempts to shake off the neg­a­tive im­age.

We were among the first in the UAE to get the chance to see what lies be­yond the Golden Arches.

Be­hind the neon signs and back­lit boards lies a fas­ci­nat­ing and highly reg­i­mented op­er­a­tion to en­sure that food is never spoiled, never off and never varies from the pic­ture the cus­tomer sees.

It also in­volves a re­mark­able op­er­a­tion to source food lo­cally – much to our sur­prise.

Here we go be­hind the scenes to ex­am­ine just how McDon­ald’s UAE works.

LO­CALLY SOURCED

Fayez Is­mail is hugely en­thu­si­as­tic about McDon­ald’s. In fact, he be­gan his ca­reer 18 years ago in the chain’s first UAE store mas­ter­ing the French fry. Now he’s in charge of op­er­a­tions for the coun­try’s 143 stores.

He en­sures that milk from Kuwait goes into the cof­fees, the sauces from Egypt are squirted onto the buns, Saudi cheese makes it into the burg­ers and let­tuce comes from the Del­monte farms out­side Dubai.

In fact, a large por­tion of McDon­ald’s pro­duce is sourced lo­cally. Is­mail says: “In McDon­ald’s we like to or­der our food from nearby mar­kets. We don’t like to go over­seas or very far to get our prod­uct. The sauces are from Egypt, the milk from Kuwait and the let­tuce and toma­toes are from Del­monte farms in UAE.”

So en­thu­si­as­tic is Is­mail, he says he, and in fact a large amount of the staff eat McDon­ald’s daily. “Me, I eat McDon­ald’s ev­ery day – for 18 years. The crew here, they eat two meals a day from McDon­ald’s,” he says as­suredly.

SLICK OP­ER­A­TION

So in-house, the com­pany is pas­sion­ate, and now McDon­ald’s is invit­ing the public in to see all the hap­pen­ings with the Open Door pro­gramme. UAE res­i­dents can book a tour of the McDon­ald’s kitchens, and see the process be­hind how their burg­ers, French fries and drinks are made.

In­ter­est­ingly, the com­pany dis­poses of used veg­etable oils through a sus­tain­able com­pany – that con­verts the oil to biodiesel, which in­ci­den­tally, the McDon­ald’s de­liv­ery trucks are then run on. Is­mail points this out on the tour – show­ing us the large oil drums full of used veg­etable oil.

Walk­ing through the back rooms and the kitchen, it’s as­tound­ing how reg­u­lated ev­ery com­po­nent of McDon­ald’s is. Charts on the wall de­pict the spe­cific or­der burg­ers are meant to be stacked: the or­der of sauce onto the

bun, un­der the cheese, above the patty with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. Charts are hung through­out the kitchen, man­agers are ex­pected to check ev­ery tem­per­a­ture of ev­ery food area sev­eral times per day.

Sur­pris­ingly, the beef pat­ties (which are 100 per cent beef) are cooked in a mere 38 sec­onds. When asked how this hap­pens so fast, Is­mail demon­strates the stan­dard­ised grill, it heats to 155F (68C) im­me­di­ately, and the dou­ble-sided grill quickly cooks the thin patty through.

As for the French fries, they are dis­posed of ev­ery seven min­utes – which some may feel is waste­ful, how­ever, Is­mail ex­plains, is to en­sure fresh­ness.

He says: “We don’t keep them any longer than seven min­utes – that’s why some­times cus­tomers have to wait for fresh fries. “Peo­ple might get frus­trated, but it’s to en­sure the prod­uct is qual­ity.”

‘PINK GOOP’

As some­one who is health-con­scious, and a veg­e­tar­ian, I have al­ways been wary of McDon­ald’s. Opt­ing for it on the rare oc­ca­sion, I ap­proached the ex­pe­ri­ence with a fair amount of scep­ti­cism. I’ve seen the videos, read the re­ports on the pes­ti­cides, the food that doesn’t de­com­pose and seen the videos of the pink goop they say is the McDon­ald’s chicken nuggets. Ques­tion­ing Is­mail, I ask about the re­ports on­line of McDon­ald’s food not de­com­pos­ing even af­ter six months and the video show­ing ‘pink goop’ that is re­ported to be McDon­ald’s chicken. He re­sponds: “What is on the in­ter­net is on the in­ter­net. We have buns from lo­cal cer­ti­fied sup­pli­ers – you saw it your­self.”

He says the sheer num­bers of clien­tele is what mat­ters, the fast-food gi­ant doesn’t give to ru­mours. “The num­ber of cus­tomers com­ing here ev­ery­day proves we have a good rep­u­ta­tion,” he says. “It’s only hap­pen­ing on the web­sites or when peo­ple are ex­ag­ger­at­ing, or say­ing some­thing out of con­text. If peo­ple don’t trust our qual­ity or they don’t like us, they’ll never come in these num­bers.”

LOV­ING IT: McDon­ald’s kitchens are now open and (be­low) Cait­lyn com­pletes her tour

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