Foodservice Equipment Reports
Editor's Take

McDonald’s Makeovers Rev Up Relevancy

My husband and I just returned from a 12-hour, cross-country trip to drop our middle child at college. Our travels took us through some very rural areas and inevitably we found McDonald’s available at every place we stopped. It’s kind of comforting to see the arches; you know what to expect. Or we thought we did. 

We were really surprised to find that not one but multiple units we visited were newly renovated, and they were really sharp looking. They sported sleek, digital menu boards with moving graphics; lots of wood walls; partitioned dining areas with designer-inspired seating set up to accommodate everyone from singles working on computers to large groups; warm lighting from modern fixtures and more. The restaurants were very airy, clean and contemporary.

Back home, I read more on what the chain is up to, and its redesign endeavor, in full push since 2011, is going at a pace of several hundred stores a year. It’s no easy feat; McDonald’s is a 36,000+-unit giant with stores in more than 100 countries, but it’s also more than 80% franchisee-owned. It can’t be easy to get that many owners to agree on anything, much less a décor package. (According to a Fast Company article, “Making Over McDonald’s,” October 2010, McDonald’s corporate offers to pay about 40% of the renovation price, which is estimated to run from $400,000-$700,000.) From all accounts, the redesigns have a direct impact on increased sales. 

McDonald’s latest design change, which involves the addition of another sandwich assembly area in the back and order kiosks in front, stems from its Create Your Taste customizable sandwich program, intended for about 2,000 locations. It began with burgers, but now is offered for chicken sandwiches as well. The unit I read about, in New York City, has no seating on the first floor, just order kiosks and an order counter. You choose from several “buns” (ciabatta to lettuce wraps); three cheeses; all kinds of toppings including bacon, sautéed mushrooms, guacamole and jalapenos; and some artisan condiments, like a spicy mayo. I’ve seen prices range from $8.29 to $10—depending on the location—for a combo meal with a beverage and fries, which are served in a metal-weave basket for dine-in customers. I’ll be interested to see how the Create Your Taste program competes with the explosive number of “better” burger chains that have come on the scene. But I confess, I’m still a fan of a regular McDonald’s hamburger.

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