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By Saabira Chaudhuri
McDonald's Corp. is pushing upscale in the U.K., launching a brand of burgers with thicker patties as it aims to thwart growing competition from rivals like Byron and Shake Shack Inc.
The company on Wednesday said the new "premium" range of burgers will be made entirely from British and Irish beef and served in black packaging with accompanying fries served in match cartons. The burgers, priced at about GBP4.69 alone--or GBP6.19 for a meal--will be sold on a trial basis starting Wednesday in London, the Southeast and Manchester. From next summer they'll become a permanent item on menus at about 400 restaurants across the country.
Waiting times for the new burgers will be slightly longer than for other burgers, said the company, as the new patty takes longer to cook.
McDonald's said if current trials prove successful it could try a host of other things, like allowing customers to customize classic burgers, order and pay by smartphone, charge smartphones using wireless charging devices and play interactive tabletop games while they eat.
The new burger effort has been spearheaded by U.K. Food Development Director Duncan Cruttenden and comes after McDonald's in April said it was adding premium sirloin burgers to its U.S. menu for a limited time.
The company's Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook has been working to improve the burger chain's food quality, customer experience, employee benefits and brand image. The efforts seem to be paying off in its core U.S. market, with McDonald's last month reporting the first quarterly increase in two years sales at U.S. restaurants open at least 13 months.
In the U.K., burger and chicken restaurants have faced increased competition from a slew of other dining options, with research firm Mintel last year projecting a decline in customers aged 20 to 24 years, which will challenge these outlets over the next five years.
McDonald's has previously set a target to open 40 new restaurants in the U.K. each year, starting last year. The company has a strong lead over the U.K. fast food market, according to Mintel, with just over half of Brits saying they had used the brand in the three months to May 2014, the same figure as user numbers of Burger King and KFC combined.
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 04, 2015 06:42 ET (11:42 GMT)
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