What is McDonald's testing?

McDonald's uses their Australian The Corner café as a testing ground for new menu items. What's up next for the fast food restaurant?

Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File
A man walks past at a 24-hour McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong, China November 10, 2015. McDonald's is testing new menu items.

McDonald’s says The Corner café that it opened in Australia last December is proving to be a successful incubator for new menu items but the company doesn’t intend to open another location. The concept’s new menu, launched October 22, moves even farther away from burgers and fries, which means some interesting food items could work their way onto McCafé or McDonald’s menus there.

Although created under the McCafé banner, The Corner offers far more than coffee, tea and sweets. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closing time on the other days has been extended to 7 p.m. with the coming of spring and Daylight Savings Time in Australia. Breakfast service ends at 11 a.m. daily and the focus remains on breakfast and lunch foods.

McDonald’s declined to disclose sales for the concept but says The Corner is being the proving ground it was intended to be. “The Corner is a one-off concept that allows our team to gauge real-time customer feedback on new products and concepts. Its aim is to help further enhance the offering at our McCafés around the country,” a spokesperson for McDonald’s Australia said in a statement sent to BurgerBusiness.com. “We’re already seeing the benefit of this, and have started trialing some of The Corner’s most popular items, including single origin coffee, toasted sandwiches, and blueberry chia muffins in some other Australian McCafés. Customers will start to see more examples of products from The Corner in our restaurants as we continue to test and evolve.”

That makes sense because if it doesn’t serve as a pipeline of new menu ideas, it’s difficult to see why McDonald’s would operate this concept. But there are plenty of non-traditional items on The Corner’s extensive new menu that would make distinctive McCafé additions.

Beverages include not only coffee (hot and iced), tea, hot chocolate, chai and tea (hot and iced) but also craft sodas ($5) [Note: all prices quoted here are in Australian dollars; currently 1 AUD = .71 USD] in flavors such as Lemon, Lime & Bitters and Cucumber & Mint. McCafé standards—milkshakes and smoothies—round out the beverages.

New savory breakfast foods on the menu include Cheesy Scrambled Eggs & Crispy Bacon Roll ($8) and those same Cheesy Scrambled Eggs on Toast with Bacon, Spinach & Tomato ($10). A new addition to the sweet breakfast options is Brioche Cinnamon Toast ($5). Open Toasts—open-faced sandwiches—are offered for both breakfast and lunch. Among the morning versions is Avocado, Tomato & Ricotta ($8). A new lunch option is the Basil Chicken with Bruschetta Tomato & Parmesan ($8).

Toasties are popular pressed sandwiches and The Corner offers four at breakfast and four others for lunch. Morning versions include Ham, Cheese & Tomato ($6); lunch choices include Herb Aïoli Chicken ($8).

The Corner’s heartier food options rely on three main types: Moroccan Chicken, Chipotle Pulled Pork and Haloumi (a Mediterranean cheese). The chicken and pork can be had as Pressed Wraps ($10) or Flatbread Wraps ($11). Haloumi & Pumpkin is the additional Flatbread Wrap option. The pork, chicken and cheese reappear as the centerpieces of The Corner’s Grain Salad Boxes ($12). These include two-grain salads, slaw or baby spinach and choice of dressing. And the trio is back again as the min ingredient in three $12 Brown Rice & Greens bowls. The Moroccan Chicken is combined with bruschetta tomato, charred pumpkin and croutons with curry hummus dressing.

No McCafé would be complete without sweets. The Corner has Sticky Date Pudding ($5), Double Chocolate Cake ($5) and Chocolate Macadamia Brownie ($5). Add ice cream with chocolate or caramel sauce for $2..

Gone from the new menu are a few heavier winter dishes such as the Protein Box meals: Lamb Tagine and Mash, and Beef and Red Wine Sauce and Mash. Mini Passionfruit Cheesecake and Mini Lemon Meringue Tart also are gone, but the company spokesperson says the menu will be continually changing.

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