I recently saw an article, in Newsweek, about Dan Coudreaut, whose job title at the McDonalds Corporation is Director of Culinary Innovation. There's also an article about him in Chicago Redeye (2/22/2010, pages 6 and 7). He's been called the most influential chef in America, inasmuch as he helps McDonald's to develop new menu items which meet that company's standards. I suppose it depends on how one defines the word "influential". If it's a matter of serving more people than almost every other restaurant or restaurant chain in the world, then the word definitely fits. But that can be a good or bad thing. When it comes to McDonald's and its effect on the health of Americans, the record is decidedly mixed.
Here's a suggestion for Dan: I think that it would be nice if McDonald's would offer a green vegetable other than iceberg lettuce.
I'm not a parent myself, but I know that a lot of health-conscious parents would be grateful for such an addition. Fast food restaurants such as KFC and Popeyes seem to be capable of offering green beans and other hot green vegetables, and other places (such as Subway) offer cold green vegetables other than lettuce, such as green peppers and fresh spinach, so why can't McDonald's do so, too?
Here's a product which would fit in well, I think, with the overall menu at McDonald's:
Dr. Praeger's Spinach Pancakes are sold frozen in many grocery stores, so the McDonald's Corporation wouldn't even need to produce the products themselves; they'd just need to sign a contract with Dr. Praeger's to produce the products for them. Since they're ordinarily sold frozen anyway, those spinach pancakes wouldn't pose the freshness issues which detract from the feasibility of selling products made with fresh ingredients which might spoil quickly. Such spinach pancakes taste quite good, in my opinion, especially when heated in a microwave oven with a nice slice of cheese melted on top. Certainly they're much more palatable than spinach from a can. I've never eaten spinach pancakes inside burgers, but I have eaten them between slices of bread or toast, and they were very tasty when eaten that way, so I'm guessing that they'd taste good with burgers, too. About the only drawback is that the cooking time is important; if they're overcooked, they tend to get softer over time, until it's hard to lift them from a pan without causing them to fall apart (if one chooses to cook them in a skillet instead of a microwave oven). But that's easily solved by using a timer; and I actually think they taste better when "nuked" with a microwave oven.
Another option would be for McDonald's to sell Dr. Praeger's Spinach Bites. I've never actually tried these (having never seen them in the grocery store), but judging by the photo on the web site, it looks to me as if these might actually be even more conducive to fast food sales than the pancakes. I can even imagine eating them with hot cheese sauce into which they could be dipped, if served with forks.
Spanokopita (spinach pie) would also be a great menu addition at McDonald's. I actually prefer spinach pie to spinach pancakes, when they're done right (e.g., with large, generous portions and nice flaky phyllo dough). I didn't discover spanakopita until I was an adult, but I think that I would have loved eating it as a kid, if I'd known about it.
Any one of the above options would be appealing to kids, I think, even though it can be hard to get kids to eat green vegetables. And the above options would make great alternatives to unceasing servings of salty french fries with almost every McDonald's value meal. People trying to reduce their sodium intake would also appreciate such menu offerings, I think. And McDonald's could probably procure the licensing needed in order to use the image of "Popeye the Sailor Man" on its advertising for the new products. They could even offer Popeye toys with those meals, to add in the appeal to the kids (although I admit that most of today's kids have never heard of Popeye the Sailor Man).