McDonald’s customers love salads—who knew?



  • Burger chain faces pushback after it lets franchisees shed the greenery. ‘Just please bring it back.’

When McDonald’s Corp. ditched salads to simplify its menu at the start of the pandemic, many restaurant operators rejoiced. The hand-assembled mélange of greens was cumbersome to make.

Diners wouldn’t miss it, they thought, as they imposed the menu change.

But some customers aren’t lovin’ it.

“McDonald’s very much has lost me," said Ana Voorhees, a 36-year-old in Pennsylvania.

Ms. Voorhees typically ordered a side salad during her weekly trips to McDonald’s. She would exchange her fries for the salad even when ordering a burger. Now she goes to Chick-fil-A Inc., where she can still get her greens.

McDonald’s is so famous for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders it’s almost synonymous with hamburgers. Who knew some of the throngs going to McDonald’s every day were there for lettuce?

Adam Reizner, an electromechanical technician in Round Lake, Ill., for years ordered a coffee and salad weekly at the Golden Arches. Mr. Reizner, 53, had become a fan of McDonald’s salads after having a heart attack in 2017. Since the outlet near him tossed salads, he said, he feels at sea.

When the chain’s Twitter account in April tweeted “bring back __", Mr. Reizner quickly aired his salad wishes. He was among tens of thousands of others who tweeted, many demanding the return of the salads no longer available at all locations.

“Everyone wants back the same thing I do, the snack wraps and the salads with fresh chicken," said Mr. Reizner, who now makes his own salads to eat in his car during lunch breaks at work.

McDonald’s first rolled out freshly prepared salads nationally in 1987. Salads never occupied more than a small slice of the menu at the chain, but they helped give its offerings some balance and were a retort to those who said it should have healthier options.

In 2000, the company introduced the McSalad Shaker—greens crammed in a plastic cup that could fit in a car’s cup holder and allow people to readily mix the dressing.

“I could just dump in the dressing and shake it up and eat it in a cup on the go," said Janay Ruiz, a 35-year-old in the Los Angeles area.

It wasn’t perfect. The tightly packed lettuce occasionally exploded out when the cups were opened, one franchisee says.

The chain discontinued the McSalad Shaker in 2003. Then it sold a line of premium salad entrees for more than a decade, followed by offerings called Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken and Southwest Salad with Artisan Grilled Chicken.

The move to strike salads in 2020 also nixed yogurt parfaits and some other items for those wanting lighter alternatives. Sticking with fries and burgers drove sales, McDonald’s said, and removing a lot of extra options improved order accuracy and speed at a time when the chain was leaning heavily on its drive-throughs.

“Wherever their taste buds may lean, we’re always listening and constantly reviewing our menu based on what they are craving the most," McDonald’s said. It added that apple slices and oatmeal remain available on its U.S. menus.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s gave franchisees the option to serve two prepackaged greens orders, Caesar Salad with Chicken and Bacon and Southwest Style Salad. Some franchisees offer them, but many others haven’t bothered to, adding a new pandemic-era stress for parents seeking permissible options to go with Happy Meals.

Kristi Chassen, a 36-year-old teacher in New York City’s Queens borough, was used to ordering a Southwest Style Salad with chicken for herself when picking up Chicken McNuggets and fries for her 7-year-old and her 9-year-old. She commiserated with other fans of McDonald’s salads in an independent Facebook group devoted to the chain.

Delaney Ybarra of Denver used to work at McDonald’s, where she met her husband. The two shared a love of the chain’s greens concoctions, and as an employee, she didn’t mind making them.

“Fried food and burgers gets very old and when you eat that almost every day for a long time," said Ms. Ybarra, 22. With salads vanished from her local McDonald’s, Ms. Ybarra says she goes to Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. or Chick-fil-A, both of which offer them.

Frank Bonomo, a 44-year-old furniture designer from Brooklyn, recently added the slogan “All I want is for McDonald’s to bring back salads" to his Twitter account and began virtually goading the chain. McDonald’s responded at first, telling Mr. Bonomo to stay tuned, but then stopped, he said.

Mr. Bonomo said he still regularly goes to McDonald’s, now assembling multiple McNuggets from the Value Menu and fries into a meal.

The other day he heard a woman ask for a salad, only to be disappointed. “I thought, ‘I’m not alone,’ " he said.

Suzie Francis, a 55-year-old community-college employee in Pikeville, Ky. said that before McDonald’s changed its policy, it had become her salad solution after too many heads of lettuce spoiled in her fridge.

When her nearby McDonald’s dropped freshly tossed salads, Ms. Francis for a while asked the restaurant’s workers when they might return. Eventually she gave up asking for the McDonald’s salad.

“I know it’s not a healthy meal by any means, but it’s a bit better than a burger," Ms. Francis said. “Just please bring it back."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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