chicago — Ray Kroc, the American businessman responsible for the global expansion of McDonald’s, once said that while he didn’t know what the fast-food chain would be selling in the year 2000 “whatever it was we would be selling the most of it.”

Fast forward to 2021 and that philosophy was brought to mind in a June 16 interview given by current McDonald’s chief executive officer Christopher Kempczinski as part of the CNBC Evolve Global Summit.

Mr. Kempczinski referenced Mr. Kroc’s philosophy when asked about changing diets and the potential impact of plant-based foods.

“That’s a little bit of my attitude when it comes to plant-based, or chicken, or beef, which is that we follow the customer,” Mr. Kempczinski said. “So, wherever the customer wants to go, we’re going to evolve our menu to meet those needs. And if that means that plant-based becomes the dominant thing that people are eating in the future, then our menu is going to reflect that.

“To the degree that plant-based doesn't have that sort of uptake and, you know, it remains more of what you see today, then our menu is going to reflect that.”

Mr. Kempczinski said that while McDonald’s recognizes that plant-based is a long-term trend, history shows that “these things tend to take quite a while to play out.”

“These are not things, in our experience, that happen overnight,” he said.

McDonald’s is still in the early stages of developing plant-based menu items. The fast-food chain earlier this year entered a strategic partnership with Beyond Meat, Inc. to co-develop plant-based menu items. The McDonald’s agreement names Beyond Meat as McDonald’s “preferred supplier” for the patty in the McPlant sandwich, a plant-based item currently in test markets. McDonald’s also is looking at plant-based varieties of poultry, pork and egg with other companies.