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MCDONALD'S

Swedes bite into online McDonald’s bookings

Tech-savvy Swedes have rushed to book evening meal slots at McDonald's branches around the country, as the global fast food giant tests the idea for the first time.

Swedes bite into online McDonald's bookings
The Maestro Classic burger. Photo: The Local
A thick black rope seals off the brand new reservations area inside the Fridhemsplan branch of McDonald's in Stockholm as a teenage girl and her family eagerly await their first taste of the international chain's gourmet burger.
 
Like thousands of others visiting more than 30 restaurants around the country, they prebooked their table online as the largest fast food company on the planet tests out a slower pace.
 
For the past two weeks, Swedish residents keen to try the firm's new gourmet beef and chicken burgers have been able to reserve evening seating for up to four people using the popular website Bookatable.se.
 
“It's a new burger and I just wanted to see how it tastes,” explains Selda Potelli, 15, who says she first heard about the trial on the company's Facebook page.
 
While she is clearly enjoying tucking into the new potato wedge-style fries that come with the dish, she doesn't appear to be overly taken with the new Maestro Classic beef burger, which includes two thin 75g sirloin patties, poppy-seed topped bread, cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, wild mustard sauce, ketchup, red onions and salad.
 
“I like it, but it's not as good as my favourite [food], Mexican…And other fancy places that sell gourmet burgers, they will beat McDonalds,” she argues.
 

Selda Potelli in the reserved seating area. Photo: The Local
 
McDonald's has not openly admitted that it is hoping for a bite of the boutique American food scene that's hot in growing numbers of European cities right now. But as Stockholm-based food and travel blogger Sandra Carpenter argues, for those who understand the restaurant sphere in the Nordic nation, Sweden is an obvious place for McDonald's to target the competition.
 
“Burger places are trendy. Here in Stockholm you've got got Lily's Burger, Prime Burger, ,Phil's Burger. The one most people mention is Flippin' Burgers although it's not my favourite. There's also Käk [in hipster neighbourhood Hornstull],” she explains.
 
“The Swedish capital has always been a big food city…when somewhere new opens up it always gets booked up for weeks. Plus this is a place where people are used to doing everything and booking everything online,” she adds.
 
However she says she isn't convinced that true foodies will be rushing to click for a table at the global burger giant.
 
“I don't know…I'm not sure who they are targeting here although I am sure it will be cheaper than what you can get at gourmet restaurants where a burger can cost up to 200 kronor ($24).”
 

The new gourmet burger is still served in typical fast food packaging. Photo: The Local
 
McDonald's gourmet burgers sell for 82 kronor ($9.78), although as part of the company's online booking marketing push, diners signing up to participate in the reserved seating trial are being given theirs for free, in a (now-not-so) surprise gesture.
 
“We see customers who are extremely appreciative for the chance to visit their favourite restaurant and get treated a little bit more special. Plus, they’re among the first in the world to try the new Maestro Classic hamburger,” says Jeff Jackett, Marketing Director with McDonald’s Sweden.

“Yes, I would say that we will repeat this. No specific time frame, but we will definitely repeat this,” he concludes.

But out in the regular section of the fast food joint, most customers seem both unaware of the current stunt and unlikely to join in if it gets extended.
 
“I don't think it will succeed with its goals,” says 18-year-old Martin Ericsson. 
 
“The thing with McDonald's is that they have gone on with the same thing for all these years and now if they want to change, people will be like shocked…people will scratch their heads and think 'what's going on with McDonald's nowadays?',” he adds.
 
“Hipsters in general, they want to be first with everything, so of course they will come here and try it but I don't think they will become regulars just because they change the way of serving people.”
 

Martin Ericsson (left) with his friend Olaf Petterson. Photo: The Local
 
IT consultant Fredrik Michael, 39, who decided to taste the Maestro Classic during a solo visit to the chain at Fridhemsplan after a busy day at work, says he won't be eating it again.
 
“I'd been told that it was some kind of luxury burger or something…it was just kind of a lot of meat. To me it was nothing special at all.”
 
But he believes the online aspect of McDonald's new campaign could be the perfect concept for his home country.
 
“I have noticed from my friends, they tend to hang around on the trends, being always [technology] pioneers…so many of them have tried the online stuff,” he said.
 
It's a theory that blogger Sandra Carpenter also agrees with.
 
“Swedes love technology and they can be quite shy…Maybe the reason that online bookings are so big here is because some of them feel uncomfortable picking up the phone. So in that sense, who knows, maybe there is a chance McDonald's idea could take off.”
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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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