McDonald's shares plans to modernize, become more healthy with DUSDAC

For students who frequent McDonald’s in the Bryan Center, lovin' it is getting a little bit healthier.

At its Tuesday meeting, Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee members heard from Ric Richards, owner and operator of the McDonald's Bryan Center location and eight others in the area, about changes in the company’s products and plans for modernization. Robert Coffey, director of dining services, also mentioned that Duke has entered negotiations with Trinity Kitchen to replace Dame’s Express on Central Campus.

Richards told the committee that in 2016, McDonald’s as a national corporation phased out the usage of human antibiotics in its chicken, which it plans to eventually carry over to its beef. The company still uses chickens that have been given antibiotics for animals, but eating animals that had been given human antibiotics was influential in children not being as responsive to antibiotics because they had built up a resistance, he said.

The chicken is also considered “clean-label” because it does not have any artificial colorings, preservatives like MSG. This may be a particularly good thing for Duke students, since they seem to be pretty fond of the product.

“The Duke campus restaurant is selling more than any other McDonald’s in Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill,” he said. “You guys are tonning it, thank you.”

Richards, who serves on McDonald’s national food evolution team and specializes in chicken, said that the new chicken tenders that were just rolled out across the country—including in the Duke locale—were tested in one of his Raleigh franchises.

One of the next steps forward in “McDonald’s land” is to start using 100-percent fresh beef in their stores beginning in December, he told DUSDAC members.

“When you go to fresh beef, you can’t import any beef,” Richards said. “We only did a little bit of importing out of Australia. That’s nixed now.”

On a national level, the corporation plans to spend between $6 billion and $8 billion to modernize its 14,000 restaurants in the United States, Richards said. These renovations will include the additions of unmanned kiosks for ordering.  

“You’re going to see the look of McDonald’s change inside and outside across the country,” he said.

The Duke McDonald’s, which is in its 18th year on the University’s campus, is also looking to catch up with the times in a way that is compatible with it living “in someone else’s house.”

However, it will not be receiving one nationwide renovation. Although McDonald’s will have UberEats starting this week, the BC location can’t adapt the program because of incompatibility with Duke’s point-of-sale technology.

Richards said that though they can’t do UberEats, he “would be all over” finding a way to do delivery that’s compatible with Duke Dining. 

The location has already broken the chain’s mold in some other ways, like offering a vegetarian Big Mac. He noted their recent addition of espresso beverage options, and said that changes to fix the storefront’s look—which he said may currently be “a little dated”—would be possible if it were to move.

“If we had the option to relocate, we would probably change the façade we have on the restaurant,” Richards said.

Coffey explained that the McDonald’s contract for its current location runs out in two years, and that the relocation process is a long one due to renovations, which typically happen over the summer, and the need to involve student input in those decisions. 

Another possibility would be to retain McDonald’s in its current location and renovating it. He said that another Bryan Center vendor, Panda Express, is planning to exercise the five-year extension of their contract for their current location.

Coffey said that he understands that businesses like McDonald’s would want increased visibility, but that highly-trafficked space isn’t necessarily easy to come by.

“They have this brand-new look that they are coming out with, and they would like to showcase that in the best place they can on Duke’s campus,” Coffey told The Chronicle after the meeting. “But for us, we only have limited spaces.”

In other business

Coffey said that Eric Burchfield and Reed Frankel—representatives for Trinity Kitchen, which presented DUSDAC members with food samples of chicken salad sandwich and walnut red pepper spread on naan in September—were “pumped” to be taking over the Central Campus location currently occupied by Dame’s Express.

When Dame’s moves out at the end of this semester, students can expect to see the new vendor, which has not finalized a name for the location, at the beginning of the spring semester. They will have the location for the 18 months that students are expected to continue residing on Central.

DUSDAC also heard from sophomore David Rothblatt, whose surveys on student satisfaction with campus dining have shown that Central Campus students are the most likely to feel that food availability is a problem. His surveys, conducted as part of a problem-solving project for a class, pointed towards Central residents being willing to spend food points on delivery fees to save the trek to West.

Coffey also noted to the council that Duke has retained its No. 1 ranking for dining services with the Daily Meal for this year. He also noted that Devil's Deals—an effort to provide more affordable lunch options on West Campus—will be expanding to more eateries on Oct. 30.


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