What d’ya think Wednesday

In a previous post, I quickly noted the difference between fairly classy foreign McDonald’s, and the fairly grotesque US versions.  Obviously, I was not the only one to observe the inequalities as McDonald’s has launched a $1 billion campaign to overhaul its US restaurants.  You can read more about the plan here, but I want to weight in on it myself.

Ostensibly, the plan is for McDonald’s to compete with Starbucks by creating a modern, lounge-y environment for people to hang out and drink a McCafe beverage.

However, as Seth Meyer’s on Weekend Update put it, “… people don’t hang out at McDonalds they end up at McDonalds.”

The Unterhaching McCafe complete with pastry case

The plan will introduce things like wooden tables, flat screens and a modern design scheme.  Basically…they are gonna make it look like European McDonald’s.

this is what they want back home

I can see their logic. Six years ago, the European golden arches were tanking.  So, the higher-ups overseas upgraded their restaurants.  Now, the European MickeyD’s is outstripping the US side in growth and profits.  In fact, the swankier European restaurants are set to introduce touch screen/computer ordering systems.  I’m not gonna lie… I’ve been known to frequent our local McCafe for a midday cappuccino.

Nevertheless, I think that the American side has a far more challenging battle ahead of it if it hopes to compete with Starbucks.

Seriously can the American version handle ceramics AND a lil complimentary cookie?

As I’ve thought about it I feel like there are several roadblocks to be considered:

1. The Image

Kids are now being taught that Ronald McDonald is the leader of an evil empire trying to poison their bodies.  Sustaining such (deserved) vilification in recent documentaries, books and TV shows, it’s difficult to see the restaurant making friends with the younger crowd who sit around in coffee shops.  They are going to have to really hammer home their commitment to the Rainforest Alliance, and other ‘feel good’ causes.

The other issue is that for the average American, there is already this perception that McDonald’s is pretty low on the food chain.  That doesn’t mean that the average American won’t stop in for a cheap and filling meal, but it does work against this concept of a “high-class” coffee bar.  Most people when speaking about a meal at McDonald’s do so with the requisite look of shame.

Disturbing

2. The Clientele

Even if you upgrade the image, it’s still going to take awhile to coax the Starbucks customer over.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sip on a latte while my eyes are being assaulted by overweight, overeating regulars.  In Europe, you still won’t see nearly as many overweight people hanging around.  I know it’s harsh, but seeing obese people stuff big macs into their faces really destroys my appetite and comfort level.

Ok this is the creepiest and most unrealistic thing ever. This bit of decor better not head stateside.

3. The Employees

This is delicate territory, but I will try not to offend.  Employees are an important component of brand perception.  When you are overseas, you will notice that many of the employees in fast food outlets are teenagers, and other young adults.  The same sort who might work as baristas at Starbucks.  I can only speak for Southern California, but back home that is not the case.  Most high school students would never consider working at fast food unless it’s at In-n-Out.  There is a prevalent stigma about fast food work suggesting that it’s degrading, and “beneath” the average Joe.  This is exacerbated in a place like California where many fast food jobs are held by minorities.  I believe that minority workers perform their jobs very competently, but let’s not pretend that the average American is free of prejudice. That prejudice devalues the workers, and also their workplace.  Admittedly, the difficult economic situation has seen an increase in middle class citizens seeking out fast food jobs, but I don’t see this substantially changing the public outlook.

4. Competition

Yes, the European market saw excellent growth after their upgrade.  However the Euroside hasn’t nearly the number of competitors the US has.  Not only does McDonald’s have to compete with the myriad of other (more delicious) fast food chains, but now it’s looking to compete with all the coffee chains out there.  I just don’t know if that’s smart or possible.

So I dunno.  This could work out really well…or it could be a tremendous waste of $1 billion.  What do you guys think? Will it work in the states? Where do you get your caffeine fix?

McDonald's, Starbuck's who cares...via: Pinterest

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3 thoughts on “What d’ya think Wednesday

  1. The Mickey D’s in Argentina (which are on every street corner) are like the European ones, with their coffee n pastry bars, and wifi stations, and flatscreen tvs. They sell their big macs in the back of the store and the aforementioned coffee bars at the front of the store, and some had an ice cream bar across from the coffee. They were always full of people when we went past. Different from American stores.

  2. Never imagined you would put so much thought into Mcd’s welfare. You should be on their marketing staff.
    I don’t have the coffee habit & can’t remember the last time I went there but I’m not sure a quiet espresso lounge will mix with screaming Happy Meal kids. Might work only in more affluent neighborhoods.

  3. A great insight into the WWW of McDonalds, I was a little perplexed during my visit to Unterhaching when I was told that we were going to McDonalds for a coffee, but on the several visits to the local macca’s I was impressed, not only with the joint’s style, also the apparent social standing of their clients. In the US I have not I have not partaken at a McDonalds, a look through the window was enough. In Australia it is a little better and since the coffee bars were added some years ago, they are a nice place to sit and enjoy a nice coffee while using their free wifi. I still avoid the food. The customer base in Australia is similar to that of the US, many from the lower rungs of the ladder, Germany attracts those who are higher on the food chain.
    Great post, looking forwards to the next one.

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