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JWR 3.48 - A Modest Proposal, or McDonald’s McBlows
Thank you for your interest to share an idea for a product or service that you believe would be beneficial to McDonald's. Please know, however, that it is McDonald's company's policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from anyone other than our corporate employees, franchise owners and dedicated suppliers.
It's not that great ideas cannot come from our valued customers. Each year, however, McDonald's receives thousands of unsolicited ideas and proposals for products and services. Due to the mass volume of these unsolicited ideas and the business challenge of determining what is truly a ‘new’ idea versus a concept that is already in development, being tested, or previously considered, we must adhere to a strict policy not to accept or review any unsolicited ideas that come from outside the McDonald's system of our corporate employees, franchise owners and suppliers.
As a result, we must decline your invitation to review your idea, and hope you can understand and appreciate our business reasons for making this company decision. We do, however, greatly appreciate your interest in McDonald's.
The above statement is taken directly from McDonald’s website and provided additional fuel for the below letter which I will mail tomorrow.
McDonald’s Corporation 8/25/2004
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Dear Sirs, or rather To Whom Corporate Policy Dictates it Actually Does Not Concern,
I recently visited your website in order to determine to whom I should address a letter regarding some suggestions I have for improving the quality of McDonald’s restaurants only to discover the corporate policy McDonald’s has of not reviewing unsolicited ideas from customers, as if I were trying to send in a tape of myself jumping off my roof to the producers of Jackass. I neither “understand” nor “appreciate” your “business reasons for making this company decision,” to quote your website. I would think that for a company with “billions and billions served” the idea of “thousands of unsolicited ideas” would not be too demanding. At the very least, make it appear that you actually do care and welcome comments with one hand while throwing them away with the other. Every other major fast food chain, with the exception of Burger King, allows customers to submit suggestions to the corporate office.
I did find it interesting to learn that you only accept unsolicited ideas from corporate employees, franchise owners, and dedicated suppliers, meaning that not even the mentally challenged individuals specifically sought after and hired to sweep floors may bring a suggestion or idea that they find important enough to share to the attention of McDonald’s Corporation.
I believe this to be a bad business decision. While McDonald’s Corporation may not feel the need to review or accept suggestions from the very people that make McDonald’s Corporation profitable, some day you may find yourselves so out of touch with what the general public wants, you will be unable to comprehend why profits and stocks are dropping until you get to be just another Hardee’s (that’s bad, by the way).
Despite your request, I still feel it necessary to make some suggestions. Please note, your comment about “the business challenge of determining what is truly a ‘new’ idea versus a concept that is already in development, being tested, or previously considered” does not fall upon blind eyes. I do not ask for any compensation or recognition for what follows. I do not require a statue next to Ronald McDonald in the heart of McDonald’s Plaza as a tribute to the reorganizations I propose which, if followed, will surely make McDonald’s a better and more enjoyable place to eat, provide faster turnover in ordering, will improve profits immensely, and will once again make McDonald’s the world’s favorite Scottish restaurant. Well, perhaps you could send me a coupon for a free Extra Value Meal, if only so I may watch in delight as the cashier fumbles with the coupon in a vain attempt to understand what he or she is supposed to do before grabbing the attention of the assistant manager who, in turn, fumbles with the coupon in a vain attempt to understand what he or she is supposed to do before grabbing the attention of the manager who… On second thought, maybe just send me a five-spot. Ah, the joys of franchising.
I suppose my only realistic hope for this letter may be that some corporate employee will see it and hang it in his or her cubicle next to the cut out philosophical waxings of Ziggy or Dilbert. This will not be your traditional suggestion to bring back the McRib Sandwich, I assure you.
Many are aware that McDonald’s is phasing out the “Super Size” option from their menus. It is unclear as to what the real reasons behind this are. If the concerns are health oriented, what’s to stop a person from simply buying two large fries instead of a single super size fry, which would be even more fries than they originally intended to order? A large fry and a small fry would approximately match the size of a super size fry, but nobody’s going to order an additional small fry; everybody knows a small fry is a rip off. McDonald’s will be unintentionally making things with its obese customer base worse by getting rid of the super size option.
I recommend not only keeping the super size option, but also adding an option I tentatively call “Super-Duper Sizing.” When a customer orders the super duper-sized fry, the fry cook tears open a bag of fries and proceeds to fry and prepare them fresh before giving the entire bag of newly cooked fries to the customer. You charge $20 for this, but the super-duper sized fries must be made on demand and salted to taste so the customer gets piping hot fries. This is, as any McDonald’s customer will tell you, when the fries are the best.
Your radio commercials blow. They make me want to purchase a Whopper and onion rings—yeah, they’re that bad. Get rid of them and the comically lame slogan “I’m lovin’ it.” Instead, you may consider a radio advertisement where the characters say the prefix “Mc” in front of many more words than normal. For example:
Todd: Hi, McBecky. Where are you McOff to?
Becky: I’m going to McDonald’s to get a McChicken Sandwich and a McFlurry. Do you want to McCome along, McTodd?
Todd: I McWish I McCould but I don’t have any McMoney.
Becky: Don’t worry, I’ll McSpot you and you can McPay me back later with some McCunnilingus.
Some of these ads should probably run late at night.
As far as a slogan goes, how about: “We ain’t Hardee’s.” The use of “ain’t” will make you appear hip, or at least as hip as you did by using “lovin’.”
At real restaurants the concept of tipping makes the majority of the wait staff perform their duties better than they typically would. Although the people who stand around behind the counter at McDonald’s do not actually “serve” customers food in the manner in which Webster’s defines said word, I have noticed tip jars at several shopping mall food kiosks for employees of these establishments where people stand around behind the counter just like they do at McDonald’s. This implies that customers should feel free to tip when they feel they have been taken care of in a manner that exceeds their expectations of similar food-serving establishments such as a McDonald’s or, dare I mention, a Hardee’s.
My recommendation is to remove the boxes for donations to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and replace them with tip boxes for cashiers. This will provide incentive in addition to that of minimum wage and may actually provoke an occasional smile or sincere-sounding greeting when a customer approaches the counter. The totals for each tip box should be counted individually for each cashier and those figures should be used as an additional tool in the performance reviews of employees. The boxes for RMHC should be relocated to just beside the height measuring tape on the doorframes so customers can reflect on the pleasurable dining experience and friendly staff before being confronted with the donation boxes on their way out. Happy customers are more likely to donate. The children would thank you.
At a recent visit to McDonald’s (for the purposes of ingesting food, not just using the bathroom) I saw that the customers who had a complaint were forced to wait in line in order to lodge their complaint behind others ordering their meals. Since McDonald’s restaurants typically have at least four cash registers and no more than two performing the functions of taking orders and giving change at any given time, create an Express Complaint Lane using one of the underutilized registers: A station reserved exclusively for receiving complaints about errors in food orders as well as the state of the restaurant, bathrooms, McPlay Ground, and the employees.
Much like the register, the most underutilized employee at a McDonald’s will helm this station, i.e.: the person with the most time on their hands: the manager. Believe me, this idea, if implemented, will see plenty of use and complaints lodged will not be reported to the Corporate Office provided the manager has the authority to make immediate amends for the reported issues. It may get so popular that some McDonald’s will have to set up those rope lines like they have at banks. Perhaps the manager could make his way around the eating area when complaints are slow and ask patrons how their meals are.
I have noticed the rules posted at the Drive-Thru (Incidentally, please correct the spelling to “Drive Through”): Have your order ready; Have your money ready; One order per car; Ask for condiments at first window; Follow any instructions given to you—my personal favorite. There should be a listing of general rules of conduct at the counter inside, as well. I believe rule #1 should be: “When cashier makes eye contact, this is your cue to step up to the counter and place your order.” Nearly as important as rule #1 is a guideline I have been following recently much to the relief of my blood pressure: “Place orders for more than two people* at your own risk. McDonald’s does not accept responsibility for mistakes in sizeable orders.” It’s unwritten; let’s just make it written for all to see and understand. At the bottom of the sign in small print it should read: “*An order for one person consists of no more than: two sandwiches, one fry, and one refreshment; one sandwich, two fries, and one refreshment; one sandwich, one fry, and two refreshments; or no more than four items from the Dollar Menu.” Rule #3 should be: “Slide money to cashier; they don’t want to touch you, you don’t want to touch them.”
In contrast to my first suggestion (Super-Duper Size), perhaps it would behoove McDonald’s to slowly change out the menu of burgers and burger-like things, to salads and salad-like things. In my opinion, you have started this transition with the likes of the Yogurt Parfait and McSalad Shakers and whatever names you call your various garden salads. The mistake made was not bumping another item off the menu as these were introduced. When the Yogurt Parfait was introduced, McFlurries and McShakes should have been phased out. When the incarnations of salads were added, various sandwiches should have been removed.
In addition, modifying traditional sandwiches can move this process along. Replace the secret sauce on the Big Mac with patent McNasty sauce. Don’t do what Coke did in the eighties; don’t change back when complaints start filtering in. Eventually, people will stop buying the Big Mac and it can be removed from the menu in favor of steamed vegetables. Don’t be concerned with people not coming back to McDonald’s if their favorite sandwich is no longer there. When the McChicken was taken away several years ago, I still went to McDonald’s as often as I did when it was on the menu. After the McChicken was reintroduced, I did not increase my visits to McDonald’s. The experience of McDonald’s is ingrained in the psyche of Americans. As long as the doors are open and we’re not driven away by poor service, we will order a #1 Value Meal no matter if it consists of a Big Mac and fries or of steamed broccoli and white rice.
One of the largest problems with the present day McDonald’s is the staff. They are costly, under-educated, under-paid, under-enthusiastic (because they are under-educated and under-paid), and a serious pain to customers. I propose Customer Order Entry (COE). Get rid of the cashiers and swing the registers around so customers can punch in their own orders. Switch to credit and debit card transactions only so no physical money changes hands—or that stupid Speed Pass thing would work, too, I suppose. We already fill our own drinks, punching in an order is not too much more to ask.
The next step is automated order fulfillment. I imagine small conveyor/assembly lines where sandwiches are cooked, made and wrapped all within a machine. The assorted items are conveyed onto a tray or into a bag that is then conveyed to the customer when all items from the order have been sent to the tray. Eventually a crew of three could run an entire McDonald’s: one to clean bathrooms, floors, and tables, one to keep buns, beef patties, and pickle slices stocked for feeding into the machine, and one to clear food jams and perform routine maintenance on the machine. These employees should be well compensated to further entice them to act friendly and professionally.
I hope these suggestions do not go unnoticed. I, personally, cannot wait until the day when I can enter a clean and friendly McDonald’s and enter my own order.
PS: Please bring back the McDLT.
Copyright © 2004 John Lemut