by Jason Mollica on May 10, 2011

Most of you have probably walked into a McDonald’s restaurant or ordered from the drive thru recently. When you stopped, did you ever consider making your local “Mickey D’s” a place to meet up with friends or even do some work?

That’s what the fast-food giant is hoping people will start to do, as it embarks on a $1 billion makeover. By 2015, it is anticipated that the majority of the 14,000 McDonald’s will have a more welcoming look.

From the May 9, 2011 USA Today cover story, “McChanges:”

“Goodbye, fiberglass tables and industrial steel chairs. Adios, neon-yellow, bright-red interiors. Hello, wooden tables, comfortable faux leather chairs and interiors newly painted in muted oranges, yellows and even subtle greens.”

Doesn’t sound much like a McDonald’s any longer, does it? Sounds more like Starbucks. And therein lies the conundrum.

McDonald’s is still the most-popular quick service restaurant when it comes to sales (even though Subway has surpassed them in the number of worldwide restaurants).  They are looking to distance themselves from the likes of Burger King and Wendy’s, while attracting folks that go to Chipotle and Panera Bread.

The huge risk here is that McDonald’s may alienate their loyal customers. Do they want to feel like they are walking into a Starbucks, or do they just want that Big Mac and large fries? McDonald’s is banking on this new look to put them in a fresh light.

It’s great to see companies evolve and push the envelope. McDonald’s has already revamped their stores drastically once before. This is a much more expensive and riskier approach. McDonald’s has 1 billion reasons why it hopes this works.


James May 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Well this is just interesting. It is exactly the conversation every company goes through when they are considering rebranding. I am a bit at a loss. I wonder how the traffic will effect person visiting the locations and those sitting in the stores. You’re not going to see a bus load of people pull up the a starbucks so they don’t have to deal with the issue but I would be highly annoyed if I was sitting in the restaurant and a loud group of little leaguers showed up.

Jason Mollica May 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thanks for the reply James!
Good point. Will McDonald’s be alienating their base customers with this revamp? I think your statement about bus loads pulling up to Starbucks/kids running around the restaurant is valid.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Kimberly Lucio May 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I really can’t imagine planning a meetup at McDonalds. To me, it has always been the place I go to eat something fast, and usually on the go. It will be interesting to see the new restaurants, but I’m not sold just yet on the idea. I feel it might be a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” concept – people love McDonalds the way it is now – why change that?

Great topic for discussion! 🙂

Jason Mollica May 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I’m intrigued to see to what the new look/feel of McDonald’s is like. That said, I agree with you, I can not see planning a meet up at McDonald’s.
An aside to this is the chain just remodeled the store to look more “progressive.” I wonder if that’s a smart financial decision as well.
Thanks for weighing in, Kim!

Tom May 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm

McDonald’s succeeds mainly for two reasons: low prices and consistent quality (not necessarily high quality, but you always know what to expect). Nobody dines in at McDonald’s for its current ambiance. As long as they don’t mess with the prices, adding an upscale feel to the restaurants should attract more customers. McDonald’s is already a strong competitor in the gourmet coffee battle, and adding value to the coffee experience without adding cost should be a great move.

Jason Mollica May 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Good point about the coffee, Tom. It’s relatively inexpensive and if you can add more quality that will definitely help. Especially in these tight economic times.
McDonald’s will always get business. I’m just skeptical of the revamp to make it more Starbucks-like.
Thanks for your thoughts!