22 October 2016
The "Create Your Taste" salad station is the most eye-catching spot at McDonald's Admiralty outlet. Photo: HKEJ
The "Create Your Taste" salad station is the most eye-catching spot at McDonald's Admiralty outlet. Photo: HKEJ

This McDonald’s is not quite the same

The famous “Big Mac index” was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted, easy-to-understand guide to determine whether currencies are at their “correct” level.

It’s not really my concern if it effectively describes the purchasing power parity between two given currencies.

It just struck me that the 30-year-old index might no longer be a novelty and should probably change its name as in the case of the McDonald’s branch in Admiralty, where the fast-food chain opened its first Next concept restaurant in the world.

At first blush I almost mistook it for a newly opened vegetarian eatery or a stylish café, until I saw the familiar Golden Arches logo. It looked so different from its siblings.

From my point of view, it is a straightforward business strategy.

It’s located in that part of Admiralty that is the hub of Hong Kong’s professional elites, including lawyers, bankers, government officials and white-collar workers.

For a fast-food restaurant to stand out in such a place, it must upgrade its services to serve a different class of customers.

I heard there has been keen demand for its variants of burgers and the “Create Your Taste” meal option. 

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder if the place is still getting orders for Big Mac, the top-selling burger in many of the chain’s branches.

Perhaps not even one out of every 100 diners at Admiralty would ever do so.

Given that the Hang Seng Index would also update its constituents, I would think that the Big Mac Index has become out of sync and should now be named as the French Fries Index.

French fries are deemed to be more representative because it remains one of the five most popular items on the McDonald’s menu.

I was told that the head office is really exercising tight control over the fries.

There’s even a Pantone-like palette to guide the staff on the appropriate color of the finished fries. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen the color table with my own eyes.

Customers literally can have the identical French fries, in terms of fragrance, texture and color, at any outlet at anytime. That’s proven to me that the French fries are more symbolic than Big Mac.

The most eye-catching spot at the outlet is certainly the “Create Your Taste” salad station.

But if you are a coffee maniac like me, you might gravitate toward a huge, bright yellow machine at the restaurant: the Victoria Arduino’s Black Eagle espresso machine, dubbed as “the Ferrari of coffee-makers”. Next to it are bags of sealed premium coffee beans for sale.

This modern eatery provides free WiFi service, charging docks for your digital devices, a self-serving water tap for cool and hot drinking water, and hand-washing stations.

It’s likely that even the fast-food industry is caught in the economic malaise, but only the directors sitting on the management board could have a clear picture of the situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure any business must always endeavor to enhance the quality of its products and services, whether in good times or bad.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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