Saturday 22 June 2013

Restaurant Review - Burger King / McDonalds

You're probably wondering why I've chosen to review Burger King and McDonalds when most people have frequently eaten at one if not both - but I've recently discovered new developments in both these chains recently which I wanted to write about. It was the first time in a long while that I've been in either restaurant; my visit to Burger King was in April and my trip to McDonald's was in May.

Restaurant name: McDonald's
Location: Cannon Street, London
Description: I have a feeling that this branch is one where they trial new ideas or at least introduce them sooner than in other restaurants, perhaps as it's in a fairly affluent area in the City. I think I remember a while ago that when McDonald's changed its decor and seating this was one of the first to be updated.
Reason for visit: I was on my way to spend the evening at the youth club where I volunteer, where I knew I wouldn't be able to get anything to eat until after I left at 9pm, and I was absolutely starving. I'm not proud of myself, but I decided to grab a burger.
I ate: double cheeseburger (no fries). But here's the reason I wanted to write about this experience: just inside the door there was a wall of ATM-style machines where you could order and pay, and collect your food at the counter. The machines are touch-screen with pictures of the food and options to allow you to add another item or customize your meal e.g. hold the pickles. I imagine this would speed up the ordering process and cut down on queues at the counter - it can sometimes be hard to order when there are also people waiting to collect food. At the same time, I found it more tempting than usual to order other items, e.g. sides or drinks, as it just needed the touch of a button - so I think they have been quite clever introducing this! It also makes it seem more modern and I think would appeal to the more tech-savvy younger generation.

The food was: The burger was good (it's been a long time, Maccy D!) but despite me using the customized option on the machine to say I didn't want ketchup or pickles, and a label on my burger confirming my selection, it did actually come with pickles. Sigh.
The service/atmosphere was: My food seemed to arrive quicker than normal, especially as I always order a plain or customized burger and it has to be made specially, but in this case it took just a moment. I think the built-in delay from paying at the machine and getting to the collection counter means your burger can start to be cooked sooner. The restaurant was clean and bright and it seemed like quite a nice branch.

The offending pickles

Price range/value for money: McDonald's Poundsaver menu is extremely good value for money and on the whole it seems cheaper than Burger King.
Would I recommend it? Not particularly as I'm unlikely to recommend this sort of restaurant to anyone (I wouldn't need to anyway, as I think everyone has been to McDonald's before!) but I quite like this branch.

Restaurant name: Burger King
Location: Leicester Square, London
Description: It's a Burger King, what more can I say? This is quite a big one with a large seating area upstairs.
Reason for visit: I needed the loo, and it was the only place I could think of that would have one!
I ate: A double cheeseburger meal - it was a late dinner at 9pm as I'd had a choir rehearsal straight after work. I wouldn't normally go somewhere like Burger King and usually get something to eat when I get home after choir but as mentioned above, a bathroom stop was a necessity. And then I saw this.... the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

(Sorry the pictures are so blurry - not sure what happened there)

Instead of ordering a Coke or Sprite with your meal, you are given an empty cup which you can fill yourself at the drinks machine. But it's no ordinary soda fountain.... the machine, which reminded me a little of an ATM in size and shape, has a touch screen displaying the logos of the drinks available (I think only ones made by the Coca-Cola company) - Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Schweppes lemonade, and all the Diet and Zero variations thereof (there were others too that I have forgotten).
You select the drink you want - say, Coke Zero - and the next screen gives you all the flavour options. Do you fancy vanilla Coke Zero? Or cherry? How about raspberry? Or a peach-flavoured Sprite?

I had a look at all the options and came to the conclusion that you got most of the same flavour options whatever drink you chose - i.e. you could have raspberry Coke, or raspberry Sprite, or raspberry Fanta. So it was probably just a case of a flavoured syrup being added to whatever drink you chose. But I don't care, I was lured in by the machine and thought it was really cool! I tried raspberry Coke Zero, and - on the basis that you could fill your cup with as much or as little as you liked - I just had a few mouthfuls then tried a little of the peach Sprite, then the Orange coke (which reminded me of the Mezzo Mix I used to drink in Germany). I wasn't actually all that impressed with the flavours - and this is from someone who loves Cherry Coke - but it's definitely fun to have different options and I can imagine this would be a big hit with children and teenagers. Great idea, Burger King!

According to the website the system was being trialled in 16 Burger Kings in and around London. But according to Wikipedia it has been around since 2009 - I don't know if that's in the UK or US. But look out for one of these in your local Burger King!

The food was: the burger was exactly the same as in every other Burger King I've been to. Having said that, the fries came in a much smaller packet than I was expecting, and it was a kind of square carton that looked a bit posher than the paper bags you sometimes get. The chips were also thicker than the fries served by their main competitor and I preferred these. I don't know how long they've been doing them like this as I can't remember the last time I went to a Burger King.
The atmosphere/service was: Burger King on Leicester Square is not somewhere I would usually go by choice in the evening, even on a quiet Monday night. There were groups of teenagers and slightly inebriated men but the place was thankfully relatively quiet. The floor was sticky but a staff member did start mopping it while I was there. And another staff member came over to ask if I needed help using the Freestyle machine (as I was spending a while perusing all the options available), which I thought was nice.
Price range/value for money: For some reason quite a bit more expensive than McDonalds for the same sort of food but it did seem good quality. But it's still as cheap as chips.
Would I recommend it: Not specifically for a meal, but there will always be a place for Burger King when you're pushed for time/ drunk/ short on cash/ at Victoria station when there aren't many other options. And I do actually recommend going to check out the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine if there is one in a Burger King near you!

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