Burgers target 'boomers'

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The future has arrived and it is resting in this correspondent's stomach. It is gungy (good), it is crammed with calories (not so good) and it is most terribly adult. It is "the burger with the grown-up taste".

I speak of the Arch Deluxe. It may be nothing more than a piece of meat in a roll with trimmings, but to those who conceived it - the chefs of the McDonald's burger chain - it is much, much more. It is the chain's attempt to grow older by a decade or two and attract the baby-boomer generation.

Faced with sagging sales, McDonald's has apparently concluded that its food needs to appeal to the maturer taste-bud. And it introduced its new burger with a display of hyperbole and glitz at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

The burger is not different from familiar McDonald's fare, except that the roll is made from potato flour and the patty is doused in a "secret sauce", combining mayonnaise and stone-ground mustard.

Yesterday's New York extravaganza is only one part of what will be the most expensive promotional campaign for a single food product in history, with a budget of no less than $200m. The famous cinedome theatre in Los Angeles was transformed into a seven-storey burger for the day.

Hard at work also will be the company's ambassador, Ronald McDonald. And the clown has evidently been told to grow up. He was due to appear in a blitz of television advertisements doing such boomerish things as playing golf with his chums and loitering in a billiards hall.

McDonald's has had some reason to cry of late. Its operating profit in the US dipped by 4 per cent in the first quarter and, for the first time, revenue at its domestic outlets fell slightly.

It is doing well internationally, however, so the Arch Deluxe is for the US only. But in France, at least, McDonald's is able to sell one item that is much more likely to appeal to grown-ups than lumpy mayonnaise: beer.