McDonald's adopts a healthier approach to food with The Corner, a trial restaurant in Sydney, offering salad, rice and soup. Image: The Corner/McDonald's.

Sydney Acts as Test-Bed for Experimental US Fast Food Chains

Australia

McDonald’s has opened a new cafe in Sydney to experiment with healthier food choices not ordinarily offered in the chain’s traditional restaurants. Located in the neighborhood of Camperdown, the reimaged cafe is separating itself from McDonald’s usual look and menu by adopting the name “The Corner” and offering choices of salad, soup, rice, and gourmet burgers.

The Sydney cafe is serving as a test lab for McDonald’s operations in the United States, where the food chain has experienced a 3.3% decline in revenue due to low sales and intense competition. This is in part due to greater health-consciousness amongst consumers. Obesity rates in Australia are similar to those of the US and Australian consumers have recently shown concerns regarding their food choices, making Sydney the perfect test market for the food chain.

Since its launch in late 2014, the cafe has received a lot of attention in the media. Some customers have noticed the fresher ingredients and the range of “whole food” options. Others dismissed it as merely having the appearance of a fancy cafe without the good quality cafe food typically offered around the city. McDonald’s is closely monitoring the performance and outcomes of the Sydney store for possible future product implementation and marketing in the US.

McDonald’s is not the only US company to use Sydney as its test market. Kentucky Fried Chicken has recently applied for a liquor license to sell beer and cider along with its traditional meals in the Western Sydney suburb of Parramatta. With Australia sharing many demographic characteristics with the US, such cooperation and knowledge sharing is likely to continue into the future.

Doris Xu is a Research Intern at the East-West Centre in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney.