Usually when McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report innovates it involves bacon, some sort of sauce, or a new take on a fast-food classic. The chain has been a quiet leader in the fast-food space dating back to the 1965 addition of the Filet O’ Fish to its menu.
That may not seem like a revolutionary change at the moment but at the time McDonald’s and rival Burger King (not then a Restaurant Brands International (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc Report company) had built their menus around consistency and predictability. The choices were few — really just burgers and fries — but the execution was key.
McDonald’s slowly expanded those offerings, but it wasn’t until it introduced Chicken McNuggets in the 1980s that innovation started to come fast and furious. That, of course, wasn’t always great as it led to monstrosities like McPizza, McSpaghetti, the beloved, but decidedly odd McRib, and, of course, the environmental Styrofoam nightmare that was the McDLT (a two-sided package designed to keep the “hot side hot and the cool side cool).
The McDLT was released right when fast-food chains (not just Burger King and McDonald’s) fell under a lot of scrutiny for their packaging. That led to both companies making some changes and it touched off efforts by both to be seen as healthier and greener.
McDonald’s Finds It’s Not Easy Being Green
Changing packaging wasn’t all that hard for McDonald’s. Yes, Styrofoam worked and actually kept food warm, but most of the chain’s fare gets eaten rather quickly after purchase and even in the delivery era, customers seem to readily accept that fast-food (and restaurant in general) to-go packaging has picked being Earth-friendly over actually working all that well.
Where McDonald’s has struggled to go green is its menu. The company has tried a variety of salads over the years and, well, it turns out people don’t want salads from the chain that made its name on the Big Mac.
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That has not stopped the fast-food leader from trying. Its current effort to go green includes a 600-restaurant trial of a plant-based burger, the McPlant, a partnership with Beyond Meat (BYND) – Get Beyond Meat, Inc. Report. It’s hard to say who exactly this sandwich is for since it’s not vegan (it has cheese and mayonnaise) and it’s cooked on the same grill as the meat-based hamburgers.
So far, the test has not been a success. The McPlant has likely only been selling about 20 sandwiches per day in test markets in California and Texas, according to a report from BTIG analysts Peter Saleh and Ben Parente which Restaurant Dive first reported on.
That’s in line with previous healthy efforts by the chain which has really only succeeded in going green with its (decidedly not healthy) Shamrock Shake seasonal offering. Now, however, McDonald’s has a new green idea and it goes beyond its menu.
McDonald’s Tries a New Green Idea
While the fast-food chain can’t get its customers to eat healthily, it might be able to get them to contribute to a healthier planet (albeit without them knowing). The company and its supply chain distribution partner, Martin Brower, McDonald’s Canada will trial the new Volvo (VOLAF) VNR Electric Class 8 tractor for distribution to restaurants in the Montréal area.
The test comes as part of the chain’s larger plan to use lower-emission vehicles in its supply chain fleet that serves more than 1,400 restaurants across Canada, where feasible. If the trial works, more diesel-powered vehicles will be replaced with alternative fuel and/or electric vehicles (EV) in part of Canada.
Globally, McDonald’s has committed to achieving net-zero emissions across its operations by 2050.
“This trial has the potential to influence a major shift in the way we approach supply chain distribution that will bring us closer to reaching McDonald’s net-zero goals. Considering the potential impact the trial could have on our business and our global greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments, this is an extremely significant moment for the company,” said MacDonald’s Canada CEO Jacques Mignault.