Unhappy Meal: The Problem with McDonald’s

 

I recently had the chance to hear from the Senior Director, Supply Chain Management, Quality Systems for McDonald’s. I include the whole title because I’m a sadist, and also because it perfectly captures what’s wrong with the home of the unhappy meal. Unhappy because McDonald’s sales are tanking, dropping for three years in a row, including a 2 percent drop in US sales last quarter.

There are problems in Ronald McDonald land, and a job title that arcane is a perfect example of a bureaucratic corporation that is unlikely to turn things around. If you can’t get your job title in a tweet, it’s probably going to be hard for both you and everybody else to know just exactly what it is you do.

The director is convinced that McDonald’s is struggling because they were slow to respond to shifts in consumer demand. According to him, McDonald’s was tardy in listening to the well organized social media demands for sustainable, non-GMO, antibiotic-free food, and the banishment of any other technology that offends those who long for a return to peasant farming.

Although no business can ignore a consumer groundswell, McDonald’s ain’t never gonna be one of the cool kids. Or, as I rather inartfully put it when he took questions: “Your best-selling item is an unidentifiable chicken part rolled in flour and deep fat fried. Your customers are not on the cutting edge of the food movement. The last time I went to a McDonald’s, I couldn’t get anybody to take my order and my feet stuck to the floor. Mop the floors and improve service, and you might succeed!”

He disagreed, of course, and referred to any number of books and articles that described the changing consumer, a consumer who won’t be satisfied with anything less than a memoir from every animal that contributes to the menu.

Well, there is no doubt that the food market is changing, and that agricultural production will have to change to meet new demands. But there are all kinds of markets for all kinds of products. McDonald’s customers want fast, cheap, and tasty. They don’t have the budget or the time for anything else. There is nothing wrong with satisfying that market niche, and McDonald’s should know who they are rather than chasing the latest nostrum from Dr. Oz.

When our three kids were small and every extra dollar was invested in our business, McDonald’s provided a place where we could feed the thundering herd in a hurry, and where we wouldn’t be asked to leave because the kids were organizing a good-natured riot. Now that the kids are gone and the wallet fatter, those things aren’t quite as important. I stopped for a cup of coffee at McDonald’s after my time with the Director of All Things Trendy. The bathroom was filthy and 14 people were in line. I left.

Oh, and I think “Head Buyer” or “Director of Purchasing” is quite enough title for the guy in charge of ground beef and hamburger buns.

There are 67 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Ray Kroc and Sam Walton would be spinning in their graves if they saw their companies today – why does an MBA deprive you of common sense when it comes to hiring enough staff and paying them to stay more than 45 days?

    • #1
  2. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    What percentage of McD’s business is done via drive-in vs. counter service?  My experience over the years has been the counter servicer is not good (I would say “sucks”, but that is not in the Ricochet style guide, oops), but the driving is OK.

    Other places like In-N-Out take the order quick, but you wait.

    A Taco Bell bean burrito is quick to order and make.  No time to go to the facilities I guess.

    • #2
  3. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Blake and Julie Hurst: The last time I went to a McDonald’s, I couldn’t get anybody to take my order, and my feet stuck to the floor.

    Never had that much of a problem at a McDonald’s. It did take longer than I expected the last couple of times I hit the drive-thru, but the first time there was a school group there and the second it was 2 am, so I’d say service was in line with my expectations.

    Blake and Julie Hurst: Senior Director, Supply Chain Management, Quality Systems

    So is he the director of supply chain management or of quality systems, or both? I think ‘quality’ is one of those terms where if you need to use it, you’re probably not doing it.

    Blake and Julie Hurst: I think Head Buyer or Director of Purchasing is quite enough title for the guy in charge of ground beef and hamburger buns.

    If that’s all he does, then yeah, that’s enough title. If he’s actually in charge of making sure those things get where they need to be, then I’d accept Supply Chain Management director as a title.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The French fries were sabotaged by whiny little vegan hippies who never eat there anyway.

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I am in “Supply Chain Management”, formerly known as Purchasing.  The main trade group, which used to be NAPM (National Association of Purchasing Managers), a few years ago changed its name to ISM (Institute for Supply Management).  They have been assiduous in removing the word “purchasing” from all their world, since what they/we do is so much more than “purchasing”, in spite of the fact that the majority of their members have “buyer” or “purchasing” somewhere in their job title.  The guy who you spoke to could better be called Director of Supplier Quality.

    • #5
  6. wilber forge Inactive
    wilber forge
    @wilberforge

    A McDonalds is a McDonalds and offers a baseline product successfully. The trendy Corp-Speak is the bane of all time, let alone truly productive by ignoring the basics.

    Many moons ago, one was Back Stage while installing new safes at locations thoughout California. We were offered free lunches, we respectfully declined.

    Have however, been able to win over  ferral cats with the Chicken Nuggets.

    Stick to the basics – Good coffee though.

    • #6
  7. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    I wonder if there was a Senior Director, Supply Chain Management, Quality Systems when this was made?

    • #7
  8. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    Could it possibly be that Obamacare’s forcing companies to insure fulltime employees, and the raising of the minimum wage in some areas, could have contributed to the inadequate staffing at your local McD’s?

    Surely McNot!

    • #8
  9. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    wilber forge:Stick to the basics – Good coffee though.

    yes. good coffee. they are even doing pumpkin spice flavor

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Blake and Julie Hurst: The last time I went to a McDonald’s, I couldn’t get anybody to take my order, and my feet stuck to the floor. Mop the floors and improve service, and you might succeed!”

    We were in a Burger King a couple of weeks ago.  For me it was the first time since 2010 when I entered two (2) of them in the course of a couple weeks of bicycle touring.  But the experience was the same.

    They need your advice even more than McDonalds does.  Alternatively, they could install disinfectant showers at the exit doors.

    • #10
  11. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    Makes me wonder what our fair correspondent, editor in Paris, and others overseas have to say about McD’s Internationale.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Blake and Julie Hurst: Unhappy because McDonald’s sales are tanking, dropping for three years in a row, including a 2% drop in U.S. sales in the last quarter.

    Fun with statistics! It wasn’t all that long ago that Slate pronounced McDonald’s “the winner of the recession.” When the economy tanked a lot of people who used to order “upscale” takeout suddenly found the Golden Arches inviting.

    Even as late as 2011 the company saw double-digit sales growth over the previous year. (I don’t know where you got the “three years” of declines. Vanguard’s published financials for the company shows anemic sales but no outright declines until last year.) If you “win” a recession the odds are you’re not going to have sustainable sales as the economy improves.

    But as is the case in almost all of retail, companies that don’t have consistent growth feel pressure from stockholders, and employees down the line get that pressure put on them.

    With so many Americans out of the workforce and the Political Class working  so hard to outsource their jobs and citizenship, I wouldn’t bet that the market for cheaper take out is dead.

    I liked the line about the line, though. As Yogi would say, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

    • #12
  13. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Blake and Julie Hurst: The last time I went to a McDonald’s, I couldn’t get anybody to take my order, and my feet stuck to the floor. Mop the floors and improve service, and you might succeed!” He disagreed, of course, and referred to any number of books and articles that described the changing consumer, a consumer who won’t be satisfied with anything less than a memoir from every animal that contributes to the menu.

    I remember in the late 90’s when McD’s went through a similar bit of soul searching. They even brought one of Kroc’s surviving old cronies out of retirement and he tried to teach them the same lesson you raised – quality of service.  He found, for instance, that the chain had actually lost the formula for the Big Mac’s secret sauce – bean counters had dropped it in favor of some cheaper stuff that just wasn’t good.  He found the recipe at the original supplier and made the chain go back to using it, while also pounding on them to improve their expectations for service and cleanliness.  For a time it worked, but yet another generation has to learn the same lesson all over again.

    • #13
  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’ve been battling with Sears all weekend. I bought a stove that is defective–it’s blowing out our circuit breaker. We’ve had the electrician in, and he said it’s the stove. It’s less than a year old. We went to Sears looking for a credit–not a refund–and we want to upgrade to a stove that is twice the price of the defective one. Years ago they would have replaced it no questions, no hassle. Which is why we’ve bought some thirty appliances from them over the years. Today, there is an attitude of bureaucracy there that is stunning, and the employees aren’t empowered at all to make decisions or help people.

    I worked on a book called The New Gold Standard about the Ritz-Carlton. I know there is good management out there. Ritz-Carlton treats its employees well, and they treat the customers well.

    But for a lot of companies today, there is no upper management in sight.

    It’s as if there is a crisis in executive management.

    It’s really sad because so many really good employees devoted their work lives to these companies. They deserved the respect and commitment of management.

    • #14
  15. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Several corporations have fallen for the “trendy” demo, from WalMart to McDonalds and a few in between.

    The entire idea of  businesses founded on speed, efficiency and mass becoming the antithesis is hilarious and very expensive to shareholders.

    Apple manufacturing crushes the soul of workers but the hipsters love it. The hipsters would not eat at McDonalds or patronize a Wal Mart if you threatened to take their non existent children.

    The progressive vision of what is good is based on a giant shared illusion and very slick people and a lot of idiots are promoting that illusion. Companies fall for it at their peril.

    I used to count on McDonalds when I was travelling for decent coffee, clean bathrooms with some edible food, especially breakfast. The last two years in five states I have seen service, cleanliness and food quality decline and getting hot coffee is damn near impossible.

    It’s the Jeb! strategy. Let’s run a business by insulting our base customers, driving them away and then win by getting new ones who begin by thinking we are irredeemable evil.

    As a good man once said- “You can’t fix stupid”

    • #15
  16. Blake and Julie Hurst Member
    Blake and Julie Hurst
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Mr. EjHill. Hmm. Sales statistics were from a quick Google search. Article mentioned 11 quarters of sales declines in May. But I yield to Vanguard.

    Nice Yogi quote. Line can come from huge crowds, per Yogi, or can come from fact that none of the 14 customers who’ve wondered in in the past two hours have been waited on. After a 10 minute wait with no movement, I decided it was the latter. (Hyperbole, of course, but not much)

    You a McDonald’s stockholder?

    • #16
  17. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    I’ve never been much of a fan since they stopped frying their fries in what was probably a mixture of used motor oil and lard many years ago, and went ‘healthy.’ Not nearly as good. And whoever made the decision to BAKE the apple pies was a dunderhead too.

    • #17
  18. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want to cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America (according to some,) the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers. (It’s weird how “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean exactly the same thing.)

    McDonald’s is finished!

    • #18
  19. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Blake and Julie Hurst: You a McDonald’s stockholder?

    I was, till about a year ago.  Couldn’t take the wild ride, and seeing the QOS fall off convinced me to bail.

    • #19
  20. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Blake and Julie Hurst: You a McDonald’s stockholder?

    No. And don’t ever take financial advice from me!

    But don’t get me wrong. McDonald’s has problems, not the least of which is a federal government determined to destroy its business model.

    They used to exhibit great control over their franchisees. Now the Department of Labor is trying to use that to force them to accept a unionized work force and higher and higher operating costs.

    • #20
  21. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    McD’s will be offering all day breakfast starting the middle of the month.  We’ve had two franchises open in the past year. Both are clean and efficient (the older shop is not). You can reload gift-cards online (can’t do that with Jack). Guess it depends on where you are.

    • #21
  22. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Addiction Is A Choice:Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America, the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers.

    McDonald’s is finished!

    Fundamentally true.

    While I consider McDonald’s to be everything that is great about america, and how mass market can dramatically improve the lives of the impoverished, this is absolutely true.  Class bigotry will kill off a healthy amount of mass market products and dramatically hurt the lives of the poor.

    The cheap myopic prejudices of the middle class is a deep and growing problem.  It creates a deadweight loss in the market which will raise prices and decrease availability.

    • #22
  23. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Guruforhire:

    Addiction Is A Choice:Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America, the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers.

    McDonald’s is finished!

    Fundamentally true.

    While I consider McDonald’s to be everything that is great about america, and how mass market can dramatically improve the lives of the impoverished, this is absolutely true. Class bigotry will kill off a healthy amount of mass market products and dramatically hurt the lives of the poor.

    The cheap myopic prejudices of the middle class is a deep and growing problem. It creates a deadweight loss in the market which will raise prices and decrease availability.

    Which is good for Gaia, no?

    • #23
  24. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    MLH:

    Guruforhire:

    Addiction Is A Choice:Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America, the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers.

    McDonald’s is finished!

    Fundamentally true.

    While I consider McDonald’s to be everything that is great about america, and how mass market can dramatically improve the lives of the impoverished, this is absolutely true. Class bigotry will kill off a healthy amount of mass market products and dramatically hurt the lives of the poor.

    The cheap myopic prejudices of the middle class is a deep and growing problem. It creates a deadweight loss in the market which will raise prices and decrease availability.

    Which is good for Gaia, no?

    I’ve had this argument sooo many times with liberals.  “Why don’t the poor just buy better X?  (or shop at Nordstroms?)”  I want to grab them by their high thread count shirts and scream “because they’re poor, you morons!”  But then they go to “Well, if Wal Mart paid better wages, then no one would have to shop there!”

    • #24
  25. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    MLH:

    Guruforhire:

    Addiction Is A Choice:Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America, the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers.

    McDonald’s is finished!

    Fundamentally true.

    While I consider McDonald’s to be everything that is great about america, and how mass market can dramatically improve the lives of the impoverished, this is absolutely true. Class bigotry will kill off a healthy amount of mass market products and dramatically hurt the lives of the poor.

    The cheap myopic prejudices of the middle class is a deep and growing problem. It creates a deadweight loss in the market which will raise prices and decrease availability.

    Which is good for Gaia, no?

    Absolutely!  If one considers the poor a virus.

    • #25
  26. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    skipsul:

    MLH:

    Guruforhire:

    Addiction Is A Choice:Nothing symbolizes the Standard American Diet like the golden arches.

    Want cheapen something? Throw a “Mc” in front of it: “Mc”mansions; “Mc”jobs, etc.

    When your products are both a punchline and “Exhibit A” in All-That-Is-Wrong-With-America, the likelihood of your turning it around is as slim as most of your customers.

    McDonald’s is finished!

    Fundamentally true.

    While I consider McDonald’s to be everything that is great about america, and how mass market can dramatically improve the lives of the impoverished, this is absolutely true. Class bigotry will kill off a healthy amount of mass market products and dramatically hurt the lives of the poor.

    The cheap myopic prejudices of the middle class is a deep and growing problem. It creates a deadweight loss in the market which will raise prices and decrease availability.

    Which is good for Gaia, no?

    I’ve had this argument sooo many times with liberals. “Why don’t the poor just buy better X? (or shop at Nordstroms?)” I want to grab them by their high thread count shirts and scream “because they’re poor, you morons!” But then they go to “Well, if Wal Mart paid better wages, then no one would have to shop there!”

    The stupid is making my eyeballs bleed just reading your account of it.

    • #26
  27. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    In my neighborhood you can’t get near McDonald’s because of the traffic caused by Chick Filet.

    • #27
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    PHCheese:In my neighborhood you can’t get near McDonald’s because ofthe traffic caused by Chick Filet.

    And besides, you control the cheese supply.

    • #28
  29. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Reticulator, Cheese been very good to me.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    My problem with McDonalds is increasingly that they keep falling behind on the “fast” part of “fast food”.

    For one thing, every time they add some “fancy” specialty item on the menu, it (arguably) slows down the delivery of Quarter Pounders and Big Macs.

    For another thing, there is no (apparent) system on the customer side of the counter.

    Does this sound familiar to you?

    Person enters McDonalds during breakfast rush. There is a mob waiting around.

    “Excuse me, are you in line?”

    “No, I’ve already ordered.”

    “Oh. Where is the line?”

    “I think it starts over there, somewhere.”

    I’ve heard that they’ve done studies suggesting that the “customer mob” “system” is actually faster than trying to regulate the customer mob into orderly queues, but I’m skeptical.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.