OK, before you fall over laughing -- salads on a McDonald's most-popular list? -- consider the history of the company's premium salad menu, which includes a Southwest salad, a bacon ranch salad and a Caesar salad. First, McDonald's decided to up the ante on quality. Instead of starting with iceberg lettuce, meal planners and developers decided on a blend of 16 lettuces. When these higher-quality salads hit the market in 2003, consumers interested in healthier fare responded enthusiastically. The fast-food chain has moved more than 500 million premium salads since 2003, equating to more than 900 million servings of fruits and vegetables [source: Greenspan].
Perhaps more important, McDonald's sells its salads at a premium. A typical salad retails for $4.20 on average. Compare that to a Big Mac, which sells for $2.89. Since the company added salads to the menu, average check totals have increased by 5 percent. On a $10 order, that's only 50 cents. But when you multiply that by 31,000 restaurants and millions of customers around the world, even a tiny margin adds up. Such scale also explains why McDonald's has become the world's single biggest seller of salads in just a couple of years [source: Wallop].
Up next: What kind of sauce would you like with those?