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I started going to McDonald's instead of Starbucks for my coffee — here's why

Ashley Lutz
McDonald's breakfast
McDonald's breakfast

In this Feb. 14, 2013 file photo, a McDonald's breakfast is arranged for an illustration at a McDonald's restaurant in New York.

Since I moved to New York City five years ago, Starbucks has been an almost daily part of my routine.

The Seattle-based coffee chain is so ubiquitous in Manhattan that I pass two in my short walk from the subway to work. Stopping in and ordering a coffee or mocha latte in the morning became part of my subconscious.

But recently, I discovered a better alternative — McDonald's.

The fast food giant started stepping up its coffee game years ago. Since then, the McCafe has become a significant revenue stream for McDonald's, with executives crediting the coffee and breakfast business with helping with the brand's recent turnaround.

Here are a few reasons I started frequenting the Golden Arches for my caffeine fix.

1. It's cheaper

My large hot or iced coffee costs just $1. That's less than half the price of Starbucks brewed coffee.

McDonald's lattes are about $2 cheaper than Starbucks ($2.79 for a medium vs. $4.70.) That being said, I find the McDonald's mocha latte to be too sugary, so I would still stick with Starbucks for that.

But when it comes to every day brewed coffee, I think McDonald's is just as good as Starbucks, and actually prefer the lighter taste. Saving money is an added bonus.

McDonald's McCafe coffees are seen at its Harajuku-Omotesando shop in Tokyo in this April 29, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files
McDonald's McCafe coffees are seen at its Harajuku-Omotesando shop in Tokyo in this April 29, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files

(Thomson Reuters)
File photo of McDonald's McCafe coffees at its Harajuku-Omotesando shop in Tokyo

2. It's significantly faster and more convenient.

Regardless of the line, I usually get my order in about three minutes at McDonald's. Once I order, I receive a receipt with a number. Once my number is called, I pick up my coffee and leave.

Starbucks' line is typically less efficient, with the whole process taking between 7 and 10 minutes.

There's also a confusing system where you pick up food at one part of the counter, custom drinks like lattes at another, and regular coffee at the register. This means I often receive my order in parts.

Many times, part of my order has been forgotten or misplaced. I've also had someone else mistakenly take my coffee at the register.

If Starbucks wants to compete in the food space, it will have to figure out how to streamline the ordering experience like McDonald's has.



3. McDonald's has a better food menu

While Starbucks has been making an effort to expand its food menu, it can't compete with McDonald's because it doesn't have a kitchen in-house.

McDonald's has great breakfast items like Egg McMuffins, McGriddles, and hash browns.

egg mcmuffin
egg mcmuffin

(Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

While Starbucks has some breakfast wraps on the menu, they are prepared and packaged in advance and lack the freshness of McDonald's.

Starbucks does have McDonald's beat in the pastry department, so if I'm craving a blueberry muffin I would still go there.

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