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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.