Look, say what you will about McDonald's — they know how to do breakfast. The Egg McMuffin is such a perfect packet of good-morning deliciousness, I swear Ronald McDonald must've cut his burger-flippin' teeth in the kitchen of a roadhouse diner. But unlike my favorite diners, where breakfast is a Constitutional right 24 hours a day, inside the Golden Arches lunch takes over at 10:30am. What gives?
It turns out, in the efficiency-obsessed assembly line that is a McDonald's kitchen, breakfast and lunch just can't co-habitate. Day and night, food is cooked in mass quantities and held, to be assembled the moment you shout your order into that talking drive-thru screen. Starting at 10:30am, the grills, ovens and fryers that were cranking out sausage and hash browns get loaded up with burgers and fries to prepare for the lunchtime rush. Breakfast is over, pal. Shoulda got up earlier.
There's some small solace: certain locations have "McDonald's After Midnight" menus featuring a few select breakfast delights. Since traffic is lower in the wee hours, some free cooking space can be handed over to the morning eats. Still, if a diner that doesn't even recognize credit cards can give me sausage and egg sammies whenever I demand them, it would seem that a juggernaut like McDonald's could figure it out.
Update: Some commenters brought up some interesting points I thought I'd look into. One source says breakfast food costs are a little lower, but that's offset by the morning menu being a bit more labor intensive — scrambled eggs, for instance, are stirred by hand. And as pointed out in the comments, there's pure thermodynamics at play: burgers are cooked at higher temperatures than breakfast items, and once they rev up those griddles breakfast is over.
Photo: Shutterstock/Tomasz Bidermann