Friday, September 4, 2015

Top Ten Reasons McDonald's is Tanking



     These are dark days for McDonald's. Sales are down 11 percent this year, profits down 30 percent. Their Asian market is crumbling. The second September in a row when their financial news was grim. 
     Not that McDonald's isn't desperately trying to arrest its tailspin, tossing out qualities that once made it distinctive, experimenting with radical notions such as letting customers choose what goes on their burgers. Or, starting next month, serving breakfast all day. McDonald's seems to be back-engineering itself into a real restaurant, a version of Woody Allen's joke about Noel Coward buying the rights to "My Fair Lady," removing the songs and lyrics to change it back into "Pygmalion." McDonald's is transforming itself into Denny's with a clown.
     It isn't working, judging by a recent survey of American consumer opinion.
     "Consumers don't think the food is high quality, healthy or even that tasty," began a scorching piece in Crain's by Peter Frost. "The restaurants seem dated and unwelcoming. For a fast-food restaurant, it takes too long for customers to receive their orders. And even accounting for changes that McDonald's is making or considering, nearly half of Americans say they wouldn't increase their visits to restaurants operated by the nation's largest fast-food chain."
     I sure wouldn't. I'm sticking at zero. Why? I could list 50 reasons to despise McDonald's. But, space being limited, we'll limit ourselves to 10:

     Top Ten Reasons McDonald's is Tanking

     1. Ambiance. Ever since the cheery red and white tile drive-ins were replaced by horrible 1970s brown mansard-roofed monstrosities, McDonald's has been lost, decor-wise. Urban restaurants have a vibe that is half psych ward, half homeless shelter. Sometimes they display a few relics of the local culture that was, in part, displaced and destroyed by the arrival of McDonald's, which only makes it worse.
     2. Omnipresence. Rarity creates value and overabundance erodes it. There are just too many McDonald's: 32,000 worldwide. The market is glutted. The corporation seems to realize this, closing 700 McDonald's franchises this year alone, trying to cut their losses.
     3. Ronald. Everyone hates him. He's frightening. A scary clown. That sex toy mouth. Those leering eyes. You never see a child holding a Ronald McDonald doll. And if you did, you'd pity that child. It would be disturbing, like a toddler cuddling a skinned goat's head.
     4. Marketing. Last week, when Burger King challenged McDonald's to join them in creating a McWhopper for the International Day of Peace, I immediately knew McDonald's would pass. The behemoth is slow on its feet. Compare the oafish, witless, nearly hysterical images that McDonald's serves up to, for example, the humor in Geico commercials. Fifty years of watching McDonald's ads and I couldn't cite one specifically. Well, maybe that "Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun" drone that nobody wanted rattling around in their brains. The marketing is as bad as the food.
     5. Employees. Harried cogs, desperately lunging to serve up the slop. Their "Guh-
morn welkamtuh'm'donal" has the emotional heft of "Order 'n' geh-out!" This is not to besmirch the employees themselves — no doubt decent folk plunged into an impossible nightmare of minimum wage slavery, fighting to keep a shred of humanity intact while endlessly repeating some mechanical functions. Does Amnesty International know about this?
     6. Blandness. Nothing in McDonald's is spicy. Even their attempt at a burrito tasted like a pot of paste. McDonald's idea of acknowledging our nation's rich ethnic diversity in their fare is offering green shakes at St. Patrick's Day.
     7. Happy Meals. Anyone who has ever had kids loathes McDonald's for reaching over our heads and luring our precious children into their trap with cheap trinkets. They're drug dealers, hooking the young on heavily breaded processed chicken.
     8. McRib Sandwiches. No more need be said. Those responsible should stand trial at The Hague.
     9. Competitors. Just as Detroit never got off its fat and satisfied posteriors until Japanese carmakers swept in and ate their lunch, so McDonald's was satisfied with futile half measures — look, we've got muffins! — until Five Guys and Red Robin and all sorts of good-burger-at-a-good-price joints came along. The spell was broken and people suddenly realized, "Wait. I'm eating this garbage when I could be eating actual food?!"
     10. The food. Last and least. The burgers are predigested mash. The fries are sugared. The shakes, frozen gray gruel. Believe me, I ate my share. No more. Now, if I enter a Metra car where someone is eating McDonalds, I have to hold my breath and hurry to the next car.
    Don't get your hopes up. McDonald still took in $27 billion last year, going gangbusters with those who don't know any better.The amazing thing isn't that McDonald's is in trouble; the amazing thing is it has lasted this long, and no doubt will go forward, for years, beccause many people can't stop themselves from eating it. Even I do, when abroad. Once I was in Vilnius, and thought I'd visit the local McDonald's — an ironic tradition of mine. I've eaten at Mickey D's in Tokyo, in Paris, out of anthropological curiosity, perhaps mixed with an unrecognized homesickness. But the one in Lithuania was so jammed I could not get in the door. A mass of frenzied customers. Not that I was disappointed to go elsewhere.

16 comments:

  1. The Ghost of Christmas Past.September 4, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    Now for the alternative perspective from those of us who love the old McDonalds--the damn health food fanatics--who don't eat there anyway, have ruined it. The fries are no longer fried in pig fat, have almost no salt, fucking salads are you kidding me, the ice cream changed to fucking frozen yogurt? I would pay anything to have the old McDonalds back. At least the basic hamburger is still good, flat and dry like a burger should be. Keep your so called "good" burgers, the disgusting "juicy" ones.

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    1. TGoCP,
      For once I can agree with you. Except McDonald's fries were the best when they used beef tallow. I recall a study that determined the most cost efficient fast food for low income people to get nourishment, is the McDonald's double hamburger. That is, it delivered the most calories and proteins per dollar spent.

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  2. Too funny about being "tried at the Hague." Read it in the paper first thing this morning.

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  3. Recall not long ago when McDonald's--like Microsoft or KMart or the Dallas Cowboys--was an unstoppable juggernaut. Then along came someone bigger, or better, or both. God bless capitalism!

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  4. Which is funny in a way because all of those numbered lists proliferating throughout the Internet are like the fast food of journalism.

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    1. I don't do many lists, but this seemed to call for it.

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  5. That burger pic is the exact opposite of food porn. I'm not a Mickey D's hater, it has its pluses, mainly sodas and restrooms while traveling, and I still like their fries. I wish they would bring back the fried pies and get rid of those baked blobs.

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    1. I agree with the pluses you cite, although you lose me on the pies. McD's has the best-tasting Diet Coke, hands down. Fountain is so much better then canned, IMO.

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  6. I did McD's in Paris many years ago (I was a cheap college kid). Seeing there were no cheeseburgers in the hopper, I figured I could get a 'fresh' burger ordering one. Well, at least I got a fresh wrapper after they threw 2 hamburgers back into the kitchen, returning in yellow...I still crave a McD's cheeseburger once a year or so - and then regret that decision quickly.

    RC

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  7. These are all good entries, but No. 7 is the best.

    Once when a Parisian was showing me around his city, we passed a McDonald's. I asked, politely, how anyone born and raised in a country with the world's most glorious cuisine could even consider eating there. He shrugged and said, "Families with kids."

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  8. When we went to Paris years ago we forgot to notify our credit cards beforehand, so found ourselves unable to access our money for a long day and night until the problem was fixed with our bank. Suddenly we were in Paris with only the change in our pockets to spend, but our hotel was within walking distance of a McDonalds. Dinner and breakfast at McD's in Paris is one of our favorite stories now, and we were truly glad to see the golden arch at the time!

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  9. Totally agree about the McRib sandwich. The only time we eat there nowadays is when we're on the road and need to make a pit stop.

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  10. Couldn't agree more! And don't get me started about reformulated Fritos, Oreos and Coke made with anything but sugar.

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    1. yes, that high fructose is worse

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  11. McDonald's is fine, and will always be fine. Snob extraordinaire Joe Queenan got it right: there's no pretension at McD's, no aspiration to be anything it's not. (Of course, he said that before their attempts at retiring Ronald, and before that widespread "adult" makeover from five or so years ago.) Still holds true: you come back again and again for the singularly satisfying "predigested mash" burgers, because you can't find that taste anywhere else. If you want a juicy Red Robin burger, go to Red Robin or grill out in the backyard.

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  12. For me their worstt sin is use of the present continuous rather than simple present. They are going to hell for that. And I love it. (No, I'm not loving it.)

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