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