This has been the week that saw McDonald’s announce the launch of an ‘artisan’ burger to be called the MacMór, which aims to use Ballymaloe Relish, Charleville Cheddar, Dawn Meats beef, and Dew Valley bacon. The idea of McDonald’s selling anything ‘artisan’ came as a surprise to many in the food world, and it seems now that the company will have to change the description to something a little less aspirational.
While it is commendable to see McDonald’s working with quality Irish co-operative cheddar and Ballymaloe Relish, it was clearly in breach of the new Food Safety Authority of Ireland food marketing terms guidelines. These guidelines state that to use the term ‘artisan’ the produce would need to be from a micro-enterprise with a turnover of less than €2 million, which is simply not the case with these large scale producers. The FSAI, in conjunction with the Taste Council of Ireland, recently issued a guidance note on the use of food marketing terms and defined an ‘artisan’ product as one that is made by skilled craftspeople by a method that is ‘not fully mechanised’ by a ‘micro-enterprise at a single location’ using food ‘grown or produced locally’. Tasty as these ingredients might be, in terms of being artisanal, they just don’t cut the mustard. The use of the term ‘artisan’ in the context of the MacMór burger was deemed misleading to the consumer, and furthermore disrespectful towards Ireland’s many genuine artisan producers.
On the other hand, could this be taken as a sign that the race to the bottom for fast food in Ireland has come to an end? Are fast food outlets taking the public’s need for transparency and provenance into account? This would certainly seem to be the case in Supermac’s.
Supermac’s is our largest indigenous fast food restaurant group, with a policy of continued expansion and growth. While many similar restaurants largely stick to the menu of burgers and fries, Supermac’s retains its edge and grows by diversifying and constantly updating its offerings. The first Supermac’s opened its door in 1978 on Main Street, Ballinasloe. Since that first opening, Supermac’s has grown steadily, and its restaurants have become a firm fixture in towns and cities around Ireland. There is always one nearby when you have a hankering for a Mighty Mac, even on the Aran Islands. Supermac’s is currently in the process of opening eight new restaurants around Ireland as part of its 2015 expansion plans. New locations include Tipperary Town Plaza, Drogheda, Clonshaugh, and Ballacolla, while plans have been submitted for a key motorway service development on the M18. The business is also involved in more than 100 community initiatives and sponsorships around Ireland.
The sandwich counters provide further healthy options in its fast food outlets throughout Ireland with a range of subs, wraps, soups, and salads, all made with good quality ingredients. While other lunchtime sandwiches are made in a central kitchen in Dublin and distributed by delivery van to chiller cabinets in shops and petrol stations, the SuperSub sandwich is assembled in front of you with pre-weighed ingredients. All meats, cheese, and vegetables are freshly prepared daily and Supermac’s caters for customers who may be coeliac or gluten intolerant, with calories for each item clearly printed in the leaflet. You can get anything from a burrito to a pizza to a cone in Supermac’s.
The recent introduction of the first 100 per cent fresh beef burger is the company’s latest innovation. This is the first fresh meat burger available in a quick service food chain in Ireland. As with all fast food chains products, consistency is the key. Supermac’s uses premium cuts of Irish beef, an exacting mix of short rib, brisket, chuck, and steak, on a soft, seeded Kaiser roll. They are never frozen and the burger is cooked to order every time. The company has overcome all potential challenges which serving a fresh beef burger in prime condition to customers could possibly present. The feedback on the product, which has been piloted in a number of restaurants ahead of its nationwide roll out over the past few weeks, has been extremely positive with sales outstripping those of the traditional frozen product. It is, in my opinion, by far the nicest burger you can get in a fast food setting.
Supermac’s is clearly committed to the support of Irish farmers, its spend spans a wide range of producers including chicken, dairy, and vegetables. This new 100 per cent fresh Irish 5oz beef burger sees its annual commitment to farmers reaching in excess of €20 million for the first time. It is a clear recognition that we have some of the best quality grass fed beef on this island and Supermac’s is rolling out a plan to replace frozen beef products with fresh in all of its restaurants in the next few months, good news for the 320,000 customers who walk through the doors of Supermac’s restaurants every week.
Meanwhile the company’s plans for overseas expansion continue to be thwarted by McDonald’s on the basis that “visually” and “orally” the names are too similar because they both include “Mc” or “Mac”. McDonald’s had not protested about the similarity in the company name in the more than 35 years it had been trading in Ireland, and it was only now that Supermac’s had its sights set on Australia and the UK that the bigger chain had complained. But as in the story of David and Goliath, I would like to think Supermac’s will come out on top in the end. Supermac’s has a long and successful background in the food business and is an endearing indigenous food story.