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By Kenneth Goh
The Straits Times
June 25, 2016
Posh-looking sandwiches made with light rye bread, desserts such as gula melaka and coconut Swiss roll and a salad bar are not what you would expect at a fast-food restaurant, but that is the bold statement McDonald's wants to make at its new flagship restaurant at East Coast Park.
When it opens on July 2, the restaurant will offer diners gourmet food options alongside its no-frills burgers and fries.
The 8,439 sq ft McDonald's Marine Cove is meant to be "a testbed" for the chain to incubate new products before they are implemented in other outlets here, McDonald's Singapore managing director Robert Hunghanfoo, 56, says.
"This outlet is special for Singaporeans as it holds significant sentimental value for them, so we decided to use it to deliver a new dining experience and launch a new design and new products."
He is referring to the outlet's location in Marine Cove, a recreational and dining enclave, where an iconic McDonald's branch operated from 1982 until 2012, when it closed for redevelopment.
The outlet was a popular hangout for families and visitors to East Coast Park.
The new one is near where the old outlet once stood. Anchoring the loft-like space is a sleek metallic counter that stands out from the cheerful yellow flooring and high ceilings plastered with gigantic food decals.
The row houses cashier kiosks, a collection point, salad bar and McCafe bar, the chain's coffeehouse that serves sandwiches and confections.
At the salad bar, diners can choose from more than 10 ingredients and sauces (from 60 cents) such as fajita chicken strips and roasted sesame sauce to jazz up three types of salad - Caesar, Asian and Classic Green (from $3.90).
At the outdoor seating area is a dessert bar, where sundaes and ice cream can be adorned with 17 toppings (from 70 cents) such as rainbow butter bites and vanilla cookie crumble.
New desserts include Summer Delight, a chocolatedipped vanilla soft serve with corn cereal and berries in a waffle bowl. Mr Hunghanfoo says expanding the menu is McDonald's way of adapting to the evolving taste preferences of diners here.
The chain is looking at ways "to stay ahead and be relevant to diners", he says, adding that the menu and research teams took a year to develop the menu after conducting research on emerging food trends and consumer feedback.
Also new on the menu are a trio of premium burgers (from $6.95), including Spicy Chicken with Apple Slaw, which comes with rocket leaves and a black pepper sauce.
The beach-style outlet includes a wall which converts people's shadows into popular McDonaldland characters such as Grimace and Birdie, as well as Google Cardboard viewers, which take users on a virtual tour around the outlet.
Unlike the old outlet, the new one, which seats more than 300 people, will not have a drive-thru.
Mr Hunghanfoo hopes diners can build up the emotional connection that they had with the old outlet.
He says: "The old outlet delivered many memorable moments, but we want to start a new generation of feel-good memories here."
•McDonald's Marine Cove will open on July 2. Opening hours are 6 to 2am (Sunday to Thursday) and 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.