act with a sense of urgency. When you have to
change the behaviors of hundreds of thousands
of people, that’s not a small thing.”
To demonstrate, Small takes me to the other
side of a McDonald’s counter and asks an associ-
ate for a Quarter Pounder. As soon as the order
enters the system, a cowbell sound—unique to the
new burger—alerts the grill cook, who pulls on a
fresh pair of blue gloves and grabs a patty from a
sterile bag contained in a blue tub in the special
fridge, which is labeled ;;; ;;;;;
;;;; ;;;;/;;;; ;;;;;. ;;;;;;
;;;;;. (The combination of the
plastic bag and the plastic tub pro-
vides two lines of defense against
the escape of “purge,” which is the
unappetizing word for the juices
that the raw burger releases in
the packaging. “That’s where your
main risk of cross-contamination
is,” says Small.) As the grill cook’s
burger hits the grill, he lowers a
clamshell top, which flattens the
patty and allows it to cook on both
sides at the same time. In another
area of the kitchen, the prep team
pops a bun in the toaster and, as
soon as it’s ready, applies condi-
ments. When the patty is done, the clamshell
automatically floats open. The grill cook seasons
the burger with salt and pepper and passes it on
a tray to a short conveyor belt, where the prep
squad unites the patty with the bun and condi-
ments and packs it all in a cardboard box. The
whole process takes less than two minutes. And
the finished product? It is, indeed, hotter and
juicier. John Goodman’s whispers are not lies.
The new beef patties have a 14-day shelf life
from the time they are formed at one of the company’s meat purveyors until the moment they’re
served. But there are many factors that could
prevent them from getting to a customer at all.
The refrigerated trucks McDonald’s uses, for instance, are constantly temperature-monitored:
If the interior temperature goes even one degree
too high or low, the entire load is discarded.
There’s also, for the first time, a question of supply. After all, ground
beef is a seasonal agricultural product,
and even if you are
one of the biggest
purchasers of it on
the planet, as McDonald’s is, you still need
to plan ahead for the
arrival of barbecue
season. “We’re competing with retail on
fresh beef, and we
need to make sure we
can access the supplies we need,” says
Marion Gross, the
head of the U.S. supply chain and a 25-year veteran of the company.
“This is new for us, and we’re coming into our
first grilling season and it’s going to test the
robustness of our supply chain. But so far, so
good!” To better anticipate purchasing needs
across the entire business, Gross’s group is mak-
ing significant investments in computer learn-
ing and researching emerging technology like
the blockchain. “We’re looking at all those kinds
of things seriously,” she says, “so we can better
manage the data we have.” She adds, laughing,
“We have a lot of data.”
Mc Donald’s has put all of this energy into fresh
beef because it really needs the burger to succeed.
The chain’s stalwartly low prices are the result of
razor-thin margins and massive sales volume, so
keeping costs down and getting more customers
through the doors—or onto its highly regarded
ordering app—is paramount. To this end, the
company announced another step in its ongo-
ing restructuring in June, closing regional field
offices and further shrinking the management
structure. All told, it plans to reduce expenses by
$500 million by the end of 2019. And it’s begun
looking into a host of potential new offerings,
from plant-based meat alternatives (like the Im-
possible Slider that White Castle has begun test-
ing in certain markets; see sidebar) to restaurants
that recognize diners upon entering and prompt
them with their favorite orders. “Customer expec-
tations are ever increasing,” Easterbrook notes.
“What used to be convenient 10 years ago, those
rules get rewritten based on the Amazons and
Ubers and the Netflixes. Just because we’re large
doesn’t mean we have to be slow.”
About a month into the fresh-beef rollout,
things are definitely bustling during the din-
ner rush at a McDonald’s on Manhattan’s Upper
West Side. A few minutes after a touch-screen-
kiosk order for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is
placed, a young female employee brings it to my
table. Have things been busier since the rollout?
“Oh yeah,” she says, already speeding back to the
counter. “Everybody tells me how much they love
position, you have to do it, but if you do it consistently, I think it’s the definition of a poorly
Tinder, and its cofounder Sean Rad, emerged
from an incubator that you funded and fostered. What do you think about incubators as
an approach to finding and nurturing talent?
Well, they’re inherently crapshoots. They’re
speculations, and you’re really not looking for the
kinds of ratios you should look for in directly
managed businesses. If you’re rational and objective, you know that a great many of them will fail.
Every once in a while, though, something good
happens. Tinder is an example of that.
You have a long history of mentoring women.
Is this something you’ve done consciously?
I’m lucky I never made any distinction. Why, I
can’t really tell you. I just didn’t.
IAC has a number of women running portfolio companies, such as Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud
and The Daily Beast CEO Heather Dietrick.
Do you think they run their companies differently? Yes.
How so? They are women, not men.
But they have to perform or they wouldn’t get
to stick around. I didn’t say that they perform
better or worse. That’s ridiculous. But when you
say, “Do they run them differently?” Yes, they
are a different gender. You can be neutral about
[gender] in terms of making choices, but there
are gender differences, and I think that’s good.
I imagine that politicians solicit you all the
time for money. Yes.
Do you see any breakout talents in politics
today? Are there people who could, were they
not in politics, thrive at IAC? Few, I’m afraid.
Is that because politics and business require
different skill sets or energy levels? It’s like the
difference between educators and film stars. I
mean, they’re the other sides of the hemisphere.
There’s nothing in common.
What about media and technology, t wo worlds
where you have a lot of experience. Do you
think the talent requirements there differ?
Generally, yes. Technology is zeros and ones and
an affinity for that. And a narrative storyteller is
very much the opposite of that. There’s no commonality there. There’s more a magnet repellent.
Tech and media companies seem to want to
collaborate, but it seems like the pairs that
succeed are the exceptions, not the rule. It’s
hopeless. Collaboration is hopeless. It doesn’t
mean one can’t buy the other, but I would not put
them in the same room.
What turns you off when you’re talking to
a potential job candidate or young person?
Someone with too many specific goals.
What advice would you give people early in their
career? Is there anything that you would tell
young readers of Fast Company Yes. Begin.
(Continued from page 70)
SAYS CEO STEVE
BECAUSE WE’RE LARGE
WE HAVE TO BE SLOW.”