McDonald's made an announcement late Thursday that, Yahoo finance reports, will silence their critics while simultaneously keep the risks to the business incredibly minimal. Here's what McDonald's announced the company will do:
It will now allow customers to get a side salad, fruit or vegetable instead of fries with value meals. They also promise to promote water, milk and juice as the drinks for Happy Meals on its menus and in ads, but of course, you are still allowed to buy a Coke for your kid if you choose. This is still America.
They also say they will use Happy Meal packaging "to generate excitement for fruit, vegetable, low/reduced-fat dairy, or water options for kids." Messaging on Happy Meal bags and boxes will talk up smart food choices and good health, and ads aimed at young people will do the same.
Previously, healthy eating initiatives haven't been on the front burner for the golden arches, but that hasn't stopped them from trying. Before McDonald's automatically included apple slices in its Happy Meals, it had offered them for many years as a substitute for fries, but parents rarely chose them. When McDonald's tested a Happy Meal version that didn't contain fries, it didn't go over well.
Also, and I speak from first hand experience here, suggesting your kids "make a healthy choice" and order apples and milk instead of fries and a coke gets the same reaction as "Hey, let's go to the dentist!".
Some may say that wackadoo menu placement of these items makes ordering them difficult. It's probably fair to say millions of McDonald's customers aren't ending up with fries in the bag because they couldn't find a salad on the menu.
Now, while there's absolutely nothing wrong with children or adults eating well, if you think this is what McDonald's is about, check out the menu section of its website and look at what's listed first. The very best way to see for yourself is to sit near a store counter at lunchtime and listen to what people actually order.
McDonald's has listened to concerns, treating it's animals better and fitting it's menu with greens, as well as, trying out "healthy" things such as egg whites and grilled chicken. This is all fine, but it doesn't exactly bring the cash rolling in for McDonald's, whose stock price has quadrupled in the past decade, about five times the advance in the stock market overall.
The only thing that's changed since the highly critical "Super Size Me" came out in 2004, are McDonald's system-wide sales numbers. They have steadily gone from $51.3 billion that year to $88.3 billion in 2012. That isn't mediocre salad rolling those sales in.
McDonald's is still in line to make a profit of more than $5 billion this year, and to open hundreds more units on top of the more than 34,000 it already has globally, even though competition has been more fierce than ever. Wendy's and Burger King have upped the fight, just as so-called fast-casual chains such as Panera proliferate.
However, these changes aren't even taking place immediately. According to McDonald's, the plan will be rolled out to 30% to 50% of the markets that are affected within three years of the announcement, and in every one of the markets by 2020. Because it takes that long to buy lettuce(??).
Of course, the company will sell some of this healthier stuff, but it'll be largely incremental to revenue. Even if it proves to be a disaster, the costs are probably going to go relatively unnoticed. The power move in this is getting its critics to shut their yaps for a bit, yet keeping the brand protected. Their business isn't veggies, and it never will be.
Their business is undoubtedly McRibs. And burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, of course. Health advocates might tell themselves they've won a round, and in a way, they have. But, what's really happening is that McDonald's will now just get back to selling burgers by the millions and watching that money roll in.
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