The slang-term "Mickey D's" never caught on in Hong Kong, although the Golden Arches are everywhere here. The burger conglomerate has seen business declines in recent years, and while diversification helped boost their coffers Stateside, they've refocused on the main brand in recent years – adding things like fancy coffee drinks and street-facing ice cream outlets.
Still, much of their menu contains refined white flour and fried potatoes – perennial favorites to be sure, but not good for people like me who prefer to limit their carb intake (anyone who's met me knows I'm large enough!). One possibility – pioneered by some burger outlets in North America – is to wrap burgers in lettuce rather than the traditional bun. This may sound odd, but it shreds the carb-count, and it works.
Last week, Mickey D's decided to debut the concept at six of their Hong Kong stores. Curious, I strolled from the Questex office to their Fortress Hill outlet seeking an unusual lunch.
Automated burger setup
Four ordering kiosks for "Create Your Taste" are now stationed at the door, with a polite employee to show customers how to use them. It's an easy process, but with 31 ingredients to choose from, it IS a process. She was visibly surprised when I selected the lettuce leaf marked "bunless" … then through the rest of the burger toppings, which are grouped – the last group are the add-ons, with an additional charge. Somehow the applewood-smoked bacon button got pressed twice, no idea how that happened...
With typical Hong Kong efficiency, you "dood" your Octopus card to the kiosk once your order's complete (the kiosk also accepts credit cards), collect your numbered receipt, then wait for cooking and assembly. I went during the lunch rush-hour, so it took a few minutes.
The verdict? It's pricey for a fast-food chain, but good. The lettuce-wrap kept everything together and it was kind of like a warm burger-salad, if that makes sense. It was a filling and different lunch.
So where's the app?
It doesn't take long to create one of these custom burgers, but you need to be start the process at the shop. Yet most people in Hong Kong have smartphones, so...hey Mickey, where's the app?
It takes awhile to navigate the creation-menu ("do I want jalapeños or pickles today...?") and a bit longer for the staff to make your burger, so with an app, you could place an order in the North Point MTR station and it'd be ready when you emerge from the extended-length escalator at Fortress Hill.
We've got automated ordering, payment by Octopus, and a lettuce-wrapped burger. Of course, you can get it on your choice of bun too. But: you get it the way you want it, with no language barrier. It's a great concept.
And it cleaves to the now-accepted model of catering (in this case, literally) to customers. Well, Mickey, your customers want to tap those tasty icons on their smartphones before they enter the store. Perhaps the payment-gateway is the holdup? Just a guess...all I do is eat the things. But I'll be back.
Here's a story with a pic that shows what the lettuce-wrapped burger looks like.