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February 21, 2013

Changing the Perceptions of McDonald’s Consumers

by vv3a

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After reading the “Making over McDonald’s” article, I wanted to reflect on my own recent experience at C-Ville’s own local McDonald’s in Barracks and its strategy to change consumer perceptions.  Originally, I was drawn in to the recently renovated McDonald’s by the promise of their new product item, Fish McBites which were selling for the special rate of $1 per snack size order (sorry guys, this offer has already expired, if you were wondering).  But as I entered its grand arches, I was surprised by the contemporary interior.  In fact, I thought I had accidentally wondered off into a UVA inspired art museum.  The space was very open, artsy, and dare I admit, clean (well, it was clean until I had tartar sauce spilled all over me and the floor).  It reminded me more of the McDonald’s that I had seen abroad, rather than the ones I was accustomed to here in the states.  In fact, it’s interesting to compare the perceptions of McDonald’s customers abroad with those of domestic customers.  Did you know that McDonald’s even does weddings?  In Hong Kong, the McWedding package has been available to customers October 10, 2010.  According to Chinese anthropologist Gordon Mathews “In the U.S. and other places, middle-class or upper-middle-class people look down on McDonald’s. But Hong Kong is different. A McDonald’s wedding wouldn’t be seen as tacky here.” (read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/world/asia/28hong-kong-mcdonalds-mcweddings.html?_r=0)

It seems that McDonald’s has taken some service lessons it has learned from abroad and is beginning to apply them to their domestic stores.  Its redesign efforts focus on adapting its exterior and interior design to local tastes.  President and COO Don Thompson, hit the nail on the head when he said, “People eat with their eyes first.  If you have a restaurant that is appealing, contemporary, and relevant…, the food tastes better” (Paynter, “Making Over McDonald’s”).  And it could not be more true.  Although many of my friends and I had originally gone to McDonald’s for specific purpose of purchasing McFish Bites, many people ended ordering several other food products such as fries, McChicken, Quarter Pounder, and even an order to-go.  I guess happier people do tend to buy more.  Additionally, seeing the pictures of UVA/Charlottesville landmarks really gave me a sense of pride in my community.  I think this type of local adaptation will appeal, not only to the experience of current students (and general UVA community) but also prospective students who may really feel that they are getting the full UVA experience while on their making their pre-college visits.  Even I, a double Hoo, felt the urge to mark my journey to the local McDonald’s with a tourist like picture.

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In addition to the interior changes, I was also surprised about the changes made to the menu displays.  They now display the calorie count of most, if not all, of their food items!  Although this method may seem counter intuitive (when was the last time you expected to get healthy food at a fast food joint?), it is strategic.  Recently, the U.S. Supreme court has upheld regulations that require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post the calorie content of its food products.  (read more here: http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012/09/12/McDonalds-Menu-Calories-091212.aspx)

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Although a timeline of this regulation is still in the works, McDonald’s has countered by adding this nutritional information prior to the official mandate as part of its new better-for- you marketing initiative.  This “voluntary” adhesion pior to the official implementation of the regulation   may help fast food power house seem more sincere and counter its “most wanted” by food-police reputation, as consumers and society, as whole, become more health conscious.

Thus, by adding relevant value to its customers’ experiences, McDonald will be able to continue to compete effectively in these changing times.

~Vic V

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