What could McDon­ald’s do to fix its busi­ness? Here are some of the op­tions


When it comes to McDon­ald’s, ev­ery­one seems to have an opin­ion about what the com­pany needs to do dif­fer­ently. Af­ter turn­ing in an­other quar­ter of slid­ing sales and profit, McDon­ald’s CEO Steve Easter­brook said the chain will un­veil ini­tial de­tails on a plan to turn around its for­tunes on May 4. Among the chal­lenges it is fac­ing are in­ten­si­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion and an im­age for serv­ing junk food that it just can’t seem to shake.

Al­ready this year, McDon­ald’s has given a nod to the “clean la­bel” trend with a sim­pli­fied grilled chicken recipe, and an­nounced plans to curb the use of an­tibi­otics in rais­ing chick­ens. In March, it also hosted a “Turn­around Sum­mit” for fran­chisees in the U.S.

The com­pany isn’t pro­vid­ing specifics on what will be re­vealed in May. But McDon­ald’s is one of those names that elicit strong opin­ions from all cor­ners — and many of them con­flict:

Serve Egg Mc­Muffins around

the Clock

McDon­ald’s re­cently be­gan testing an all-day break­fast menu in San Diego, and some are al­ready call­ing on the com­pany to take it na­tional.

John Gor­don, a restau­rant in­dus­try an­a­lyst, said it’s just one way McDon­ald’s could start in­creas­ing cus­tomer vis­its to stores, given the enor­mous pop­u­lar­ity of its break­fast menu.

For now, most McDon­ald’s restau­rants in the U.S. serve break­fast un­til about 10:30 a.m. In the test, McDon­ald’s is only serv­ing se­lect break­fast items.

Add Veg­gie Love to the Menu

Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly seek­ing out veg­e­tar­ian op­tions, even if they’re not con­vert­ing into strict veg­e­tar­i­ans, said Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for The Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States. He said that means it’s time McDon­ald’s of­fers a veg­e­tar­ian op­tion.

Shapiro noted that many other chains al­ready court peo­ple who feel like skip­ping meat. Chipo­tle in­tro­duced a ve­gan top­ping called Sofritas. Denny’s and Johnny Rock­ets have veg­gie burg­ers, and White Cas­tle re­cently said it would make veg­gie slid­ers a per­ma­nent part of its menu af­ter their pop­u­lar­ity as a limited time of­fer.

“So many of McDon­ald’s com- pe­ti­tors are serv­ing plant-based en­trees, and McDon­ald’s is lag­ging be­hind,” Shapiro said.

Raise Wages

In a col­umn in The Chicago Tri­bune, Easter­brook said he wants to trans­form McDon­ald’s into “mod­ern, pro­gres­sive burger com­pany on many fronts,” fo­cus­ing on per­cep­tions about its food and work­ers.

It came right af­ter McDon­ald’s said it would raise the start­ing wage for work­ers to US$1 above the lo­cal min­i­mum wage. But la­bor or­ga­niz­ers — who are call­ing for US$15 an hour and union — said the move falls far short es­pe­cially since it only ap­plies to com­pa­ny­owned stores, which ac­count for a tenth of U.S. lo­ca­tions.

Robert Re­ich, for­mer la­bor sec­re­tary and a sup­porter of the Fight for US$15 cam­paign, said rais­ing wages across the chain would not only mend the chain’s im­age as an em­ployer, but lower its worker turnover and help busi­ness.

Go Back To Ba­sics

While some say McDon­ald’s needs to change more quickly, oth­ers say it has strayed too far and needs to get back to fo­cus­ing on what it does best — af­ford­able burg­ers and fries.

“No­body is go­ing to ar­gue that McDon­ald’s fries are bad,” said Laura Ries, pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing firm Ries & Ries in At­lanta.

She said McDon­ald’s should stop chas­ing trends and try­ing to ap­peal to ev­ery­one, she said.

The com­pany is al­ready try­ing the tac­tic; ear­lier this year, an ad fea­tured the Big Mac with a voiceover say­ing the burger would never be “de­con­structed” or “in­fused,” and dis­missed trendy in­gre­di­ents like kale and quinoa.

Ron­ald McDon­ald has been a source of ten­sion among some who say the chain uses its mas­cot to mar­ket un­healthy food to chil­dren. By re­tir­ing the red-headed clown, McDon­ald’s could start re­build­ing its trust with many moms, said Jesse Bragg, spokesman for Cor­po­rate Ac­count­abil­ity In­ter­na­tional, which has crit­i­cized the com­pany’s mar­ket­ing prac­tices.

“It’s clear this brand has lost the trust of peo­ple,” he said.

Those who make a ca­reer of im­per­son­at­ing Ron­ald shouldn’t worry, though. Although he had faded to the back­ground for a cou­ple years, McDon­ald’s has de­fended its spokesclown as a “force of good.” Last year, it even gave him a new out­fit and said he would be ap­pear­ing on its so­cial me­dia sites more.

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