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McDonald's revamps stores to look more upscale, USA Today

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  • HillJ May 9, 2011 04:18 PM
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http://www.usatoday.com/money/industr...
Why? Why not embrace your arches?

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  1. It seems like a response to the cafe-as-lounge trend that they are now competing with. I was very surprised to walk into a local Dunkin Donuts recently and it was virtually indistinguishable from a Starbucks. Fireplace, leather chairs and all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cachetes

      Interesting, I haven't seen a DnD revamped yet but I have seen fireplaces in grocery stores and more and more commerical brand coffee cafes inside food markets.

    2. It's probably changing demographics, because if you are over the age of 10 it is a lot more inviting than the playland motif, and if there are now more Baby Boomers than preteens it makes sense. Now if we could just get our In-N-Out burgers with that ambiance.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ChinoWayne

        I wonder if the Happy Meals are going to get a face lift? Free cell phone cards for the toddlers?

        1. re: HillJ

          Look for the McDonaldsland game on Facebook.

          1. re: HillJ

            They've already installed computer/video game stations next to the playground at some locations.

        2. They may be building a more comfy mouse trap, but they need better cheese in the trap. I had an angus burger w /swiss & mushrooms around 1:30 last Fri. that was so dry, tasteless, cold, rigid, ashen colored, almost pertified, that I will remember it for a LONG time. Vile. It looked like 3 day old road kill. One bite and I tossed it. Gross.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            Given the amount of fat in the beef and the extreme amount of pasty mayo that's put on top, I find the claims of it being dry and tasteless rather hard to believe.

            1. re: Veggo

              I suspect you're not their target audience, and they are well aware of it. But I'm sure they appreciated your 6 bucks.

            2. I've been living in La Antigua, Guatemala, for the past six weeks and the McDonald's here is one of the more beautiful restaurants in town. There's a large, handsomely landscaped garden with a fountain and meandering paths with wrought iron tables and chairs scattered about, all a good distance from each other and all with spectacular views of Agua volcano. There's a McCafe that sells specialty coffees and teas and has an impressive selection of pastries that I've been told are quite good. Because of the ambiance, this is one of the most popular places in town, for those with no office to go to, to have meetings. A friend of mine even had private language classes there every afternoon for two weeks.

              Don't know if it's true or not, but I was told just a couple of weeks ago that the success of this particular McDonald's and its cafe was a not insignificant impetus in the reconsidering of the design of other stores.

              Here's a link to a photo of the garden:

              http://www.flickr.com/photos/antiguad...

              2 Replies
              1. re: JoanN

                What a beautiful photograph. Well, one could hardly argue with that location or view over a latte and pastry...but is that really what we think of when we visit a McD's? Any chain would be happy with a location like that!

                1. re: HillJ

                  As the first link states, McDonald's has been going this way with McCafe. The first photo is the Guatemala City McCafe.

                  In the Antigua location, there is both a McDonald's and a McCafe. The second photo is the McDonald's side which is slightly better, but still pretty typical McDonald's. The McCafe has the couches, and muted tones. They both share the patio area.

                  If you order the McDonald's menu,they hand you the tray and the packaging is the same. At the McCafe you place your order at the counter and a server brings it to your table. Real plates, cups and dinnerware are used.

                  So ... is the drop dead gorgeous location enough to lure me in ... yes, the first time. I have directed more people to McDonald's in Antigua ... "you gotta see this" ... than the better restaurants in town.

                  However, the bottom line is ... the food ... no, seriously. I recently went because I really, really wanted the orange shake with chocolate shavings and the coconut pie. The latter was very good. The mango-passion fruit cheesecake sounded better than it looked, so I didn't bother with that.

                  Will the upscaling bring more business ... uh, maybe not. It is nice to have a more attractive joint, but in the long run, a cheesy McDonald's vs a classier one really doesn't matter. You are there for the burger and fries ... and fillet o fish ... and occasional McRib (US only).

                  More McDonald's Antigua photos

                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/7685047@...

                   
                   
                   
                   
              2. again ?

                I thought they already did that by adding "lounge" seating for those who really want to stay in.

                I think it's a weird idea:

                Most fast-food restaurants need a high turn-over rate for high profit, when people stay and take spaces with "refills" it does not generate a lot of traffic and because they take the space, people will no want to go in and spend money.

                M.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Maximilien

                  Even the recent re-design of my local Starbucks has changed the seating configuration. There are only two lounge chairs, one long bench with six small tables each w/one matching chair. There are only 20 seats in the entire cafe now. But there is an entire wall to ceiling display unit containing all of their products for sale, a larger area for their bagged coffee and a wider floor space for ordering lines. The sit, drink, stay model has been changed to order & go. The color scheme, new furniture, new fixtures are beautiful but the space no longer invites sticking around. I haven't seen a laptop for weeks.

                  1. re: Maximilien

                    They are probably making a terrible mistake. You should write them a letter to let them know!

                  2. there is a newer restaurant near me that is actually quite nice inside. They are near a retirement community so they are trying to appeal to the "older" demographic... no playland, dark wood, black trim.... and they usually are full of seniors!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: libgirl2

                      That's the same new contemporary look in Florida funeral parlors.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Good thing my wine was on the counter, Veggo!

                        1. re: Veggo

                          thus explains its popularity! Seriously though I like going there, its super clean, super calm... the food tastes fresher (!!) and they have yet to screw up my order the few times I have gone thru the drive through.

                          1. re: libgirl2

                            They wouldn't dare upset regular senior customers!

                      2. there have been upscale mcdonalds in montreal for sometime now and despite looking a little nicer, come 3am, it's the same crowd!

                        1. In the mid 70s a McDonalds opened in the new Water Tower Place shopping mall. This is an 8 story mall on Chicago's Miracle Mile. There were stories that they had to employ an maitre d' to guide customers, especially wealthy ones who had no idea how the store worked.

                          1. as long as the food is the same low-quality apcray, I don't understand why anyone with any sense (or taste buds) would go there for anything but the coffee.

                            I don't care how they upgrade the appearance. The food is inedible.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ChefJune

                              ChefJune, really? Don't the golden arches boasts billions of customers at this point? Sure, you may find the food inedible but hell your comment is just plain silliness. This OP is about the remodel.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Yeah ... though I'm not fond of the coffee.

                                Actually Julia Child liked McDonalds fries. I guess she had no tastebuds.

                                From a Larry King interview

                                http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPT...

                                "KING: What do you think of McDonald's?

                                CHILD: Well, I love McDonald's"

                                A you tube video of Julia on the fries

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF31qC...

                                "I like McDonalds. I think they are very careful"

                                Although in this clip she was unhappy about the fact they don't use beef fat anymore.

                                Another Julia at McDonald's story.

                                http://whatscookingamerica.net/Doc-La...

                                "Realizing we had to eat quickly, she said, ‘Well, is there a McDonald's nearby? I like McDonald's. It's always consistent. Plus we can eat in the car.’ So, we did the McDonald's drive-thru, with her newly coiffed hair grazing the roof of my little Honda Civic. She had a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake and insisted on paying for everything.”

                                During a radio interview later that afternoon, Melissa Libby shared the lunch story with the show’s producer and it got to the interviewer prompting one last question. “So, Ms. Child, in our city with fine restaurants, please tell us where you had lunch today?” The answer, Libby recalls, was vintage Julia Child: “OOOOOH, McDonald's!”"

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I've never seen any of those clips rw, thanks for sharing them.

                              2. re: ChefJune

                                Ms Chef,

                                I'm with you. It's the old lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. There is nothing they can do to the interior to make me want to sit, and as you nicely put it, eat their apcray and shove a million grams of salt and fat into my body.

                                1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                  McD's worldwide menu offers items w/out salt & fat.

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonald...

                                  I welcome your contribution to the discussion about the company remodeling.

                              3. Folks, we've removed a bunch of posts from this thread. We know that many of you dislike McDonalds food, but jumping into discussion to point that you don't eat there and don't want to talk about it is like jumping into a discussion about whether Star Trek: The Next Generation is better than original Star Trek to tell people you don't have a TV and don't know why they watch such lowbrow stuff. It just raises hackles and doesn't add anything to the conversation.

                                1. So what is the fate of the "retro" McDonalds, like the one down in Woodbridge, VA I drive past from time-to-time. It is built to look like the McDs of my youth, with actual golden arches and picnic tables outside.

                                  My father is a fan of McDonalds. It's one of the few things I can get him to reliably eat. I just wish they didn't slather everything with so much mayo.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: pgreen

                                    Good question. I read in the newspaper articles about this worldwide announcement that operators spend btwn. $50K-$150K on these remodels (and that's just interior renovations).

                                    1. re: pgreen

                                      McDonald's doesn't use mayo.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Sure they do. It maybe regional like mustard on hamburgers but Mayonnaise is listed as an ingredient in 11 of their menu items.

                                        http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutrit...

                                        1. re: melo7

                                          Didn't they get rid of the Big N Tasty years ago and is the Angus burger still around? That leaves the chicken sandwiches, so not quite everything. The standard menu of burgers don't use mayo.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            It's been a little while since I've eaten at McDonald's so I'm not trying to argue with you that there is mayo on everything I just wanted to point out that, yes, in fact they do serve Mayonnaise.

                                            A simple search of their menu tell me that the Big N Tasty and Angus Burger are still being served.

                                            1. re: melo7

                                              Perhaps using the word "everything" was hyperbole. All I know is that the last time I was there, I got a grilled chicken sandwich that was slathered in mayo. I had to get a (plastic) knife to scrape off as much as I could--three napkins full. My father got a fish sandwich that was slathered in some sort of mayo-based sauce (which I assume was tarter sauce). In both cases, mayo was oozing out the sides. It was disgusting. The sad thing is that the chicken sandwich was otherwise not too bad.

                                              1. re: pgreen

                                                I think we've finally determined that McDonald's does in fact use mayo (even the big mac has a mayo-like sauce), but doesn't put it on everything. That chicken sandwich always has too much at the place near me.

                                                1. re: pgreen

                                                  They make everything to order now, so just order without the mayo; easy enough.

                                      2. They re-did one just outside of Wilmington Delaware. It looks wierd and the service still sucks. I only go there because my 98 yo aunt likes thier fish and Mushroom burger.. It is fun to watch the old people try to stay on the button seats.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Just Plain Craig

                                          What do you mean by 'service still sucks'? How long do you have to sit at your table before a waitress comes by to take your order?

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Sadly no waitress but if they had them they would be as slow as the front and window service. I wanted a quarter pounder made like a big mac, sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions..easy. For anyone but the people that work at McDonalds.

                                            The only time I go is when others want to.

                                            1. re: Just Plain Craig

                                              I guess McDonald's isn't the place to customize your sandwich. Their success has been based on formula, repetitive tasks, and procedures, . If you want something special, don't be surprised if it takes a while or isn't correct. The implication seems to be that the people who work at McDonalds aren't smart, where in fact they are trained to deal with a large volume of the same stuff, over and over, and they do that quite efficiently. They never claimed to let you "have it your way." That's BK, and in my experience, they handle special requests quite well.

                                              1. re: tommy

                                                Not sure the folks at BK are exactly rocket scientists either. The penultimate time I was there (maybe 15 years ago), I ordered a sandwich with the sauce on the side. It came with sauce on the side, as well as a huge, thick smear of it in the sandwich. When I complained, I was told by the counter guy who never actually looked me in the eye "there is sauce on the side."

                                                1. re: pgreen

                                                  Small sampling size to be making a blanket statement.

                                                  1. re: pgreen

                                                    I would guess (hope) this guy has moved on after 15 years.

                                                    Having been to BK more recently than your visit in the 1990's, they handle special requests well. It is their thing. Lets call this an uphill report.

                                          2. We stop at McD's when we do car travel. I noticed that in some fairly small towns in places like Eastern CO and Western KS, McD's has gone in for a coffee shop look, with free WiFi. I saw customers with their laptops there. Making the stores friendly for WiFi is a good strategy, especially in areas that don't have coffee shops or other WiFi places. We see fireplaces and comfy chairs now. I think it is an improvement. Now if they would just improve their menu.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                              ":Now if they would just improve their menu"

                                              If what they serve at McCafe is any indication, you don't want them to go there. Nothing is truly bad there, but it is just so 'meh'.

                                              McDonald's does what it does ... burgers, fries, and fish sandwiches. Nothing they have ever introduced on the menu after that has ever matched what it started with.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                "McDonald's does what it does ... burgers, fries, and fish sandwiches." Yes this is true. But I wish for snacks that are lower in carbs and/or fat. To their credit they recognize that people stop in for a snack, and they do have snacks on the menu. But mostly I can't eat the food, or I shouldn't eat the food. And their coffee, though improved, is still not that great. I prefer McD though for rest stops on a long car trip. We never enter a McD, ever, otherwise.

                                            2. I couldn't find the link, but the story did remind me of a very upper-class, fancy McDonald's that was in (I think) Connecticut a while back. I'm sure the white table cloth versions are featured in other areas.

                                              Never thought much of it when I saw it; after all, it's still a drive-through for me and even those are rare. But, that's just me. I just don't take atmosphere into factor unless it's very high-end and/or ethnic.

                                              1. I don't get it. They are one of the biggest companies in the entire universe, and most people drive-thru, and nobody's complaining about the decor!

                                                They should use all that money to revamp their food instead.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: Jadore

                                                  Most people use the drive-thru? I didn't read that in the article.

                                                  They are actually adding drive-thru lanes at some locations.

                                                  I don't think this is driven by "complaints" about the decor.

                                                  I suspect if they changed their food, they'd be in a lot of trouble.

                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                    McDonald's is, first and foremost, a drive thru restaurant. They 'serve' more people in their cars than they do inside. You don't need to read that in any article to know that.

                                                    And obviously no one is complaining about the decor. My point is that people constantly complain about McD's for one thing or another, and what they look like inside is rarely at the top of the list.

                                                    1. re: Jadore

                                                      I'd like to see some stats on this theory of drive-through vs in-restaurant. Thanks.

                                                      As I suggested, this decision isn't based on complaints. What are their customers "constantly" complaining about? Where is this documented? Where is this list documented and what is the top complaint?

                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                        Obviously, I was being facetious in my original comment about complaints! Sheesh, tommy, get a grip. But come on, anyone who doesn't live with their head in the sand knows that McDonald's is griped about all the time in the news and in pop culture. But here, I'll humor you, since we know you wanna debate. :)

                                                        I don''t know what the number 1 complaint is, but I do know what some of the biggest ones are. These are all issues that have plagued McDonald's family friendly and affordable image for a long time; some even pre-date the dawn of the Internet! (OMG!)

                                                        Have you heard of Supersize Me? McDonald's is often a target for the argument about a link between obesity and obesity-related diseases and fast food! :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Si...

                                                        Have you read any of the articles surround the pressure McD's was given about changing their oil to be trans-fat free? Did you hear about the public outcry in their slowness to actually follow through with their promises? They were hit with a fairly publicized lawsuit a few years back:

                                                        http://lowfatcooking.about.com/od/hea...

                                                        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5402763/

                                                        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16873869/...

                                                        http://forum.lowcarber.org/archive/in...

                                                        Did you know that many vegans and vegetarians, as well as Hindus, placed pressure on McD's to fully admit that they use beef extract in their fries, after dubbing the ingredient to be 'natural flavor' for years prior? They lost $10 million (aka pocket change) in a lawsuit over their lack of clear communication over their ingredients in 2002:

                                                        http://www.commondreams.org/headlines...

                                                        http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/0...

                                                        How about the fact that PETA has launched not one, but two huge anti-McDonalds campaigns, spawning lots of discussion as to why the company refuses to step up their animal welfare standards:

                                                        http://www.mccruelty.com/why.aspx

                                                        http://money.cnn.com/2004/12/28/news/...

                                                        http://www.bnet.com/blog/food/peta-vs...

                                                        The Humane Society has some similar complaints:

                                                        http://www.humanesociety.org/news/pre...

                                                        See also the McLibel trial of 1990, which became the longest trial in British history:

                                                        http://animalrights.about.com/od/comp...

                                                        There's also the idea that McDonald's exploits children for profit. People are hitting back with lawsuits:

                                                        http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/busi...

                                                        http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/0...

                                                        And if none of the above links can help you decipher what their top complaints are, you can always scroll through the 'bad service' remarks found here!

                                                        http://www.complaintsboard.com/bycomp...

                                                        But again, I wasn't trying to state that they shouldn't revamp their restaurants until the public complains.

                                                        1. re: Jadore

                                                          Ah, people who don't like or eat at McDonalds complain about it. Gotcha.

                                                          Like I said, decisions of this scope aren't based on complaints, much less on complaints from people who don't eat at the restaurant.

                                                          I don't want to debate, contrary to what you think. I want people to state opinion as opinion, and support opinion with verifiable fact, rather than more opinion.

                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                            Again, my original remark was a very casual way of saying, "Wow, they get hammered in the media and in courts all the time for pissing people off, and instead, they take money to invest in some new decor! That's kind of odd!"

                                                            And again, I never thought they were doing this based on complaints or lack thereof. See previous paragraph.

                                                            Finally, I did state an opinion that is based on my basic knowledge of public complaints against McDonald's, and I backed it up with (lots and lots!) of sources, articles, etc.

                                                            1. re: Jadore

                                                              i don't think that's odd at all. it's common practice in fact.

                                                              i mean there's a reason philip morris became Altria. and it isn;t because they revamped the product for health reasons

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                I guess it's not strange in general, i.e. a chain changing their decor. It just struck me personally as odd because they're always under scrutiny for some moral/ethical thing, or so it would seem.

                                                                I guess I'd like to see them address their (very public) complaints and lawsuits by spending that money on more humane treatments of their animals for slaughter. Or maybe they could just offer better quality beef and fresh vegetables, or, hell, more products without so many preservatives and hormones. I think their money would be better spent on correcting some of those problems than trying to incorporate some fancier chairs and tables, or what have you.

                                                                1. re: Jadore

                                                                  but that's costly and risky. 2 things corporations do not like. much easier to rearrange the deck chairs.

                                                              2. re: Jadore

                                                                Plenty of chains get hammered by a percentage of their customers. Using Starbucks as an example (again here). The cafes have changed their menu items, the ingredients in their drinks, their GREEN approach, their hiring practices, their decor, their product lineup. The company has changed logos, Board of D's, their Make Your Mark Foundation...what haven't they changed...while also winding up in legal tangles over coffee and closing stores and rethinking their vision...on and on. Read the ingredients label of the baked goods or drinks...there's plenty of salt, sugar, fat in there...if that is your issue. Yet people pay 3x's a much to enjoy Starbucks.

                                                                So, what does that have to do with decor? Why does a business spend $$$ and more $$$ on redecorating?

                                                  2. on SNL last nght in teh news, seth meyers said something to the effect that they're revamping the Mcd's to be more like starbucks as a place to hang out. what they dont understand is Mcd's isnt a place you hang out, it's a place you end up at

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      SNL News is always entertaining. OTOH, I don't understand all the bashing. Their loyalty is proven by their longevity.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        People want to prove their foodie credentials ... I'm too hip or have such a refined palate that I won't eat at McDonalds ... or at least admit to it.

                                                        We need more Julia Childs in the world. People who dont' feel they must conform to herd thinking and admit they like the place for what it is.

                                                        However, SNL has a point. As I've said, you go there or not because you like the food. Even with the suprising lack of places to hang out in ANtigua with a computer, it would not be my choice unless I want something from the menu. Even revamping, it will be the poor man's Starbucks.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          i'd happily admit it if i liked it.

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            I think part of the point is that people love to pile on. I can't imagine going to every thread on Pizza Hut and pointing out how horrible I think it is. I just don't read the threads with "Pizza Hut" in the title.

                                                          2. re: rworange

                                                            From a business model/building an empire standpoint McD's and Starbucks could be kissin cousins. Do they have different customers, sure. If this was a post about Starbucks, I'd likely see the same remarks about their cafes/menus/prices/customers.
                                                            Such is life.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Kissing first cousins

                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                              In Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan, many newly middle class families take their offspring to the McDonalds with the playland to enjoy upscale foreign food (?) for their Sunday family comida. The Mickee Dee's there is pricier than stateside, currency considered. The wonderful, authentic local family Sunday mexican restaurants there are soooo good, and far thriftier. Makes me want to shriek.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                They are trying something out of the ordinary and exploring another culture through food. These are admirable traits, even if you don't like the food.

                                                                1. re: tommy

                                                                  I don't mind the food if it has been freshly prepared. The first of my 2 angus- swiss-mushroom burgers was as good as my second one was bad.

                                                                2. re: Veggo

                                                                  I spent some time in Vancouver where they did not have that many McDonalds in the popular downtown area. However, one downtown that did have a McDonalds, and was quite popular (as far as I could see) was Chinatown.

                                                                  Now, Chinatown had lots of other restaurants that were also popular. But, I think that many of the Asian residents in Chinatown had the same reaction to McDonalds as did the residents in Playa del Carmen. That is, they simply enjoyed it for what it is, a change of pace.

                                                                3. re: rworange

                                                                  No, we go there because it is convenient when we travel. We don't care for the food, but McD is ubiquitous when you are on the road.

                                                                  I like the line as McDs is a place you end up at.

                                                                  For people who are in financial straits McD might well the only destination where they can pick up a bite to eat affordably. Obviously, the nutrition and taste are wanting, but if you are broke, where else would you go that would be any better?

                                                            3. Here's a good article about how to make the BM better

                                                              http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                You know, I've never actually had a Big Mac, but their recipe makes me crave one! (Well, a homemade one anyway.)

                                                              2. We moved from Eastern North Carolina to the Raleigh in 1996, when I was 14. The Raleigh-metro area is used for test marketing by a lot of companies, including McDonald's. The McD's down the street from us in 1996 was already called McDonald's Cafe, complete with fancy coffee drinks and comfy couches. It has been fascinating to watch the McCafe concept evolve and expand over the years.