McDonald's brings local Gilroy flavor with garlic fries

Friday marks the start of the 38th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, but while tens of thousands of people flock to that town to sample its signature spice, others will get the taste courtesy of a new menu item at a national chain restaurant.

Some 250 Bay Area McDonald's restaurants plan to bring back the Gilroy garlic fries, a popular menu item.

"We wanted to bring a local flavor to the Bay Area. garlic fries is one of those iconic flavors that we've always enjoyed," says Cosme Fagundo, an owner-operator of a McDonald's restaurant in San Jose.

Although not up on the menu board just yet, workers still add the special garlic spice to an order of fries, if the patron is willing to wait an extra few minutes. Apparently many are, because the demand was so overwhelming last spring for the unique item that Fagundo's restaurant and all the others ran out of garlic. That prompted a phone call to the garlic supplier 35 miles south in the small town of Gilroy, California.

Christopher Ranch Garlic initially sold the restaurants several tons of diced garlic.

Now they've shipped 100,000 pounds—about 50 of the large bins that president Bill Christopher and his son, Ken, a vice president, spent several minutes checking as part of quality.

"Right now there's a trend a movement where American consumers want to have locally grown products, here in the USA," send Ken Christopher.

Given the success of the family's first venture into garlic fries, the local menu item could grow throughout the state and region. What's good for Christopher Ranch could be even better for the local Gilroy economy, according to the city's economic development corporation CEO.

"So you've got the payroll from the jobs that are generated as well as the purchased of good and services throughout the year," said Tammy Brownlow.

The ranks of Christopher's current 600 employees could grow, with new hires coming from the pool of local talent..

"We’re gonna have to invest in infrastructure. We’re gonna have to invest in new plants. We’re gonna have to hire new employees and that could mean a lot for the town of Gilroy," said Ken Christopher.

But the big plans depend on consumer demand, and the change to a fast food staple that's spreading a signature taste.