I used to love McDonald’s french fries. While I am now an infrequent patron of the Golden Arches I still crave the fries. I have tremendous respect for McDonald’s! Most would agree it is an American icon. Just like General Motors, Sears and Budweiser it is part of our heritage.
Like most Boomers these days, I’m trying to monitor my food consumption, which explains less frequent visits to all fast food restaurants. I’m pretty good about eating healthy except when I have no time or I have a craving. One day last week I had both.
McDonalds happened to be the most conveniently located so I thought I’d get a chicken sandwich and some of those fabulous fries. I zipped through the drive through ready to tantalize my taste buds with a handful of those famous spuds. When the bag was handed to me I placed it on the passenger seat. I pulled away, and reached into the bag and felt around for a handful of fries. Much to my chagrin my fries were DOA. That’s right, they had died a slow death under the heat lamp. I suffered through 1 handful of lukewarm taters, ate half the sandwich and chucked what remained.
In the past, McDonald’s didn’t have to worry so much about the temperature of their fries. They were the biggest, best, most prominent fast food brand in the land. Burger King, Wendy’s and Yum Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut) were on the rise but lacked the market dominance and advertising budget of Mickey D’s. For many years it wasn’t a fair fight.
Oh my how times have changed! While McD’s still holds the dominant position with 27% market share, Burger King, Wendy’s and Yum have vastly improved their position in the consumer’s mind.
I realize that fast food’s primary target audience is not necessarily Boomers. I admit I don’t represent frequent users of the aforementioned brands. I do however have some advice for the McDonald’s brass. I’d continue to keep my eye on the three national competitors but I’d study two regional brands obsessively – Chick-Fil-A and In-N-Out.
Both of these regional juggernauts are like a couple of gnats on an elephant’s patoot! I get that. Neither will ever achieve the dominance of the big 4; big is not part of their mission.
What’s this have to do with the temperature of the french fries? EVERYTHING! You visit either CFA or INO and you will receive hot, fresh fries. When I was in the biz, we referred to fries as a trigger item; when the fries are hot the rest of the meal tastes better! Of course lukewarm fries have the opposite effect. Somehow both have figured out how to make sure the fries are hot every single time. And, oh by the way, your order at these two establishments will be taken and delivered by a smiling person , who looks you in the eye and actually makes you believe it’s their pleasure to serve you. It is undeniable – this is a winning formula in the fast food world.
Recently, “All Day Breakfast” has helped McDonald’s stave off a 5 quarter sales slump. Analysts like the margins and the fact that a third of the customers coming in for the new All Day Breakfast are new.** Good for them. I just hope they somehow can figure out how to serve hot, fresh fries – consistently. While All Day Breakfast appears to be a winner, I truly believe it’s all about the fries…
Approximate # of locations McDonald’s 32k , KFC 18k, Burger King 13k, Pizza Hut 12k, Wendy’s 6.5k, Chick-Fil-A 1,850, In-n-Out 310
Chick-fil-A is the industry leader in sales per restaurant, making an average of $2.7 million per (2010)
Globally, fast food generates revenue of over $570 billion – that is bigger than the economic value of most countries. (2015)
**National researcher NPD Group Inc. revealed that one-third of customers who bought breakfast from McDonald’s beyond regular breakfast hours, thus taking advantage of the “All Day Breakfast” initiative, had not visited the restaurant in the month before the launch of this initiative. The same study revealed that 61% of the customers who purchased breakfast food during lunch hours also added non-breakfast items.
*Courtesy of Wikipedia
**Forbes Magazine, December 16, 2015 “Is McDonald’s All Day Breakfast Strategy Working?”