Why McDonald's Chief Executive Called Its Menu 'Darwinian'

When it comes to dominating the fast food market, no one can pull in diners like McDonald's. According to Forbes, the secret to the brand's success lies in its ability to adapt to the changing marketplace. On one hand, the chain embraced new changes in culture, shaping itself into a "fast and convenient" restaurant when patrons wanted a quick bite and expanded its presence across the world. While these locations continued to serve up standard fare like Big Macs and the Filet-O-Fish, regional menus popped up that catered to local tastes. Even limited-time and seasonal items adapt to the regions. While Americans love the McRib when it makes appearances, Japanese consumers indulge in McDonald's Teri Tama Burger in the spring (via Day Translations).

Chris Kempczinski, the current CEO of McDonald's, credits the brand's success to its ability to match what consumers want in a fast food menu, according to The New York Times. Kempczinski assumed the mantle of CEO after previously working as an executive at Pepsi and based his current business strategy at McDonald's on how he saw soda vending machines at schools easily outperform healthier beverage options. He leaned into the business philosophy of giving consumers whatever they want, stating "[McDonald's] menu is very Darwinian. We will put on the menu what our customers are looking to buy. We do have healthier choice options on the menu. And we have more indulgent choices on the menu. Ultimately, we leave it to the customer to make those choices."

A constantly evolving McDonald's menu

Kempczinski attests that success lies in appealing to the whim of the consumer, no matter what, as The New York Times reports. This line of thinking doesn't exclusively revolve around selling consumers junk food, as Kempczinski sees it: "The way I approach the job today is: whatever the customer wants to buy. If they want to buy plant-based and they want to buy enough of it, I could make my whole menu plant-based. If they want to be able to buy a burger, we'll sell a burger." The rationale doesn't mean the CEO discounts positive nutrition on the menu and has gone on record in support of full nutritional transparency while promoting healthier items to children.

While the McDonald's CEO has heard multiple takes about where McDonald's should head in the future, he remains fairly prudent when it comes to fast change. "I have many friends who will say, 'Well, you're just not moving fast enough,'" Kempczinski said. "[The] reality is that's not going to force people to make the right choices. That's just going to drive them to go in a different direction. They're just not going to come to your restaurant... These things have to be done also at the pace that a customer is willing to be nudged. Just radically making these decisions and saying, 'Well, now these are your options. Take it or leave it,' is not how we as consumers are conditioned." Only time can tell what comes next for McDonald's, but with Kempczinski's vision, you can guarantee fast food staples will remain on the menu.