McDonald’s Japan updates menu, prices after food scandals

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McDonald's Japan president Sarah Casanova (left) and an employee displays the new menu "Vegetable Chicken Burger" as the company announce the new business strategy and at a restaurant in Tokyo on May 21, 2015. McDonald's Japan unveiled a revamped business strategy and a new menu on May 21 as it looks to put a damaging contamination scandal behind it. AFP PHOTO

McDonald’s Japan president Sarah Casanova (left) and an employee displays the new menu “Vegetable Chicken Burger” as the company announce the new business strategy and at a restaurant in Tokyo on May 21, 2015. McDonald’s Japan unveiled a revamped business strategy and a new menu on May 21 as it looks to put a damaging contamination scandal behind it. AFP PHOTO

TOKYO: McDonald’s Japan unveiled a limited revamp to its menu and pricing Thursday as the under-fire burger chain fights to restore its reputation — but the modest changes met with a cautious response from analysts.

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The company — which has been battered by a series of scandals including a human tooth found in some fries — said it was adding a new chicken patty containing vegetables, as well as a salad and a low-calorie onion dressing.

New combinations for its set meals would also be offered, it added.

“Our customers have spoken and we have listened,” McDonald’s Japan President Sarah Casanova told reporters at a press conference in a Tokyo outlet.

McDonald’s will also round its prices up or down to avoid awkward figures that result in customers getting handfuls of change, something identified as a bugbear.

The updates were offered a cautious welcome by analysts, who said that while it was unlikely to reverse recent heavy losses, it may help to rebuild trust lost over a series of food safety scares.

“It’s difficult to launch a plan that can revive a company all at once,” said Seiichiro Samejima, a fast food sector analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute.

“McDonald’s needs to continue implementing new measures to restore public trust.”

Menu additions were notable for their having shifted away from the burgers and fries most closely associated with the McDonald’s brand.

“Apparently the company wants to wipe away the negative image that it serves unhealthy products,” he said.

The Japanese arm of the US food giant has suffered waves of public criticism over its handling of a series of incidents in the past 12 months.

Last summer a Chinese supplier was found to be mixing out-of-date meat with fresh produce, sending sales plunging and forcing a rapid switch to a Thai vendor.

Late last year the company had to airlift an emergency supply of french fries from the US after a chip shortage resulted in rationing at its 3,000 restaurants across Japan.

Over several months there was a near constant stream of stories about foreign objects turning up in produce, capped by the discovery of a human tooth in some french fries sold at an Osaka outlet.

In April, the company announced it would renovate 2,000 of its 3,000 Japanese outlets and shut down another 130, while reducing its headcount in a bid to cut costs.

That came after it said in February it had lost a worse-than-expected 21.8 billion yen ($186 million) for 2014 — against a year-earlier profit — recording its first loss in 11 years.

The company is forecast to post a 38 billion yen net loss this year.

AFP

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