Tuesday, October 17, 2006

British CEO Says Pushing Salads Over Burgers At McDonald's 'Alienating Customers'

Easterbrook says "healthier" options at McDonald's hurting business

One of the most recognized name brands is the #1 fast food company in the world: McDonald's. It's hard to imagine anyone on this planet who has never heard of the famous golden arches, Ronald McDonald, or what they have become most well-known for--Quarter Pounders, Big Macs, French fries and milkshakes.

And last week the company announced business was extremely good over the summer with third quarter sales growth of 5.8 percent throughout the chain worldwide which caused sales of McDonald's stock to hit their highest point since 2000 on Wall Street.

Corporate executives quickly rolled out their PR swagger on this positive financial news for their company by stating the upcoming release of nutritional info on their packaging as well their healthier menu items (which Dr. Dean Ornish helped encourage McDonald's to add to their menu) such as carrot sticks, apple dippers with caramel sauce, all-white meat chicken nuggets, fruit bags, deli sandwiches and walnut salads were the reason for the resurgence in sales as well as the outstanding performance of the UK chain of McDonald's restaurants. Makes you wanna go on a McDiet, doesn't it?

But somebody forgot to send the memo to the CEO of the 1,125 McDonalds restaurants in Great Britain, Steve Easterbrook. Despite the improved sales numbers and the public perception that McDonald's really does care about offering better food choices for their customers, Easterbrook said all the focus on these "healthy" menu items that have been added in recent years such as salads are actually bad for business.

"In the past we have seemed somewhat apologetic about who and what we are, but you have to believe in the brand," Easterbrook remarked. "Our menu has evolved, and we now have a much broader range of salads and sandwiches. But we were alienating customers by pushing our salads."

Easterbrook notes that 25 McDonald's units in Great Britain were forced to shut their doors due to poor performance which he blames in part on the artificial image that the food served at McDonald's is healthy.

Well, well, well, a little honesty from a top executive within the McDonald's empire certainly sheds some light on an issue that I have long had my concerns about. While it is understandable why McDonald's would so heavily promote their healthier menu options (although even that point is debatable considering all the sugar in these items) because of the negative publicity they have received in recent years regarding their role in the obesity epidemic, here we have the British CEO basically admitting the changes made to the menu are nothing more than window dressing.

But nothing has REALLY changed now, has it McDonald's?

The reality is that these "healthy" options at McDonald's are merely a fraction of their total sales figures. To illustrate this point, one internal report by the company found that for every salad sold at McDonald's, an incredible EIGHT double cheeseburgers are sold. Of course, putting the double cheeseburger on the "99 cent value menu" certainly doesn't hurt sales.

Add to that the fact that a "super-sized" Big Mac was recently added to the menu at the McDonald's restaurants in the UK and what you see is a company that is basically thumbing its nose at those of us who support having healthier choices available to us. Portion sizes have gone down a slippery slope at McDonald's and other fast food restaurants, although I am not in favor of forcing these restaurants to cut their portions or calories if the market doesn't want that to happen.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to focus on your core bestselling products as a business model, but this shell game McDonald's is playing with the consumer using their healthier menu as a bargaining chip is not impressing me one bit. If you wanna sell burgers and make that the product you earn a buck off of, then do it. But don't act like offering salads and apple dippers with sugary caramel sauce is endearing you to the health-conscious customers because it is not. I don't agree with Julia Havey wanting to sue your butt, but I think it's time to get off the fence on this issue, McDonald's.

Believe it or not, I am forced to go to McDonald's about once a week to get my wife Christine her favorite meal--a double cheeseburger with a large order of fries. Aside from the extremely slow, nonchalant, and very poor service that I almost always receive when I visit the restaurant, the disgusting stench that comes out of that place when I pull up to the window to pay for the "food" is enough to make me sick. I mean LITERALLY sick. But, I usually hold my breath long enough to get home with the high-carb processed junk food that makes my wife happy. She's lovin' it! UGH!

When McDonald's donated $2 million to childhood obesity research last month for the first time in the history of their company, I was cynical about their motive for making the gift. With such forthright comments from Easterbrook, my skepticism about why they did it is all but confirmed.

Keep that in mind the next time you think you're eating "healthy" at McDonald's. If I can ever get my wife over her addiction to their French fries and burgers, then I'll never darken the doors of their restaurants again for as long as I live.

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Blogger Alcinda (Cindy) Moore said...

Have you seen the commercial with the little girl dressing up? Voice over of mom saing it's not as important "what goes on the belly as what goes in it"....then they show the kid at MacD's having chicken nuggets (fried) dipping them into sauce (sugar) and apple slices (good) dipping them into caramel (sugar) and 1% milk! Meanwhile mom has a salad. I'm sure the salad has fat free dressing!!!

Oh yea....that's really good for the kid. Trans-fats and sugar!!! Yummy yummy!!!

I hate MacDonalds, always have. About a month ago I went to a local MacD's and got one of their salads....I cannot remember the last time I went there (or any other fast food joint). About an hour after I ate the salad, which really wasn't good, I started getting stomach cramps....and was sick all night. Needless to say that is my last visit!!

As for whether people believe that some of the foods there are healthy? Oh yea...there are lots that do!!!

10/17/2006 11:07 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...


You are going to have to do something about christine!

Gah! That stuff is utter crap for the body!!!

It's so hard if people don't wanna listen!!

I think this guy is right. Their real business is promoting obesity and diabetes.

This healthy menu stuff is just a PR fad they are going through.

Okay McDonalds apologists - bring it on!

10/18/2006 5:16 AM  
Blogger Calianna said...

According to my daughter, who has spent a good deal of time in the UK in the last few years, their fast food serving sizes are a lot smaller than the ones we have in the US.

That may have changed with the introduction of supersized meals in the UK.

Ironically enough, my daughter also tells me that most pub meals are absolutely huge - even by US resaurant standards. And you *know* that restaurant meals in the US are already too much food for most people.

Hmm... perhaps Mickey D's-UK has decided that their *real* problem with sales is the size of their servings compared to what's available elsewhere, which is why they're heading towards supersizing there. Or perhaps it's because mostly the only people who eat at US based fast food restaurants in the UK are Americans, who complained because of the "skimpy" portions served in the UK McD's.

The UK already has nearly as much problem with obesity as we do in the US (probably at least in part because of all those huge pub meals). Hopefully the supersized meals at McD's will fall flat and be removed from their menus post haste, to prevent them from ballooning up to US proportions of obesity.

10/18/2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Huh, now that is interesting. I actually love McDonalds for putting the nutrition info on the food. Let the market work it out as long as customers are informed. I'd be just fine if McDonalds backed off the health food rhetoric as long as some of it stayed on the menu. I love the grilled chicken caesar (12 carbs, 9 net) with Newman's Own Vinaigrette (4 carbs so I try not to use it all). It's a great option on the road or in a pinch. And the .99 fruit and yogurt parfait is one of my favorite treats, I just wish it didn't have sugar in the yogurt.

10/18/2006 7:58 PM  
Blogger bes said...

Jimmy, I was really intrigued by this and am doing research on public health interest. Could you provide information of where you got your McDonald's statistics so I can cite them? That would be great! Thanks!

10/30/2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS, B.E.! My source for this info came from The Scotsman which I linked to the headline. Best wishes on your research and let me know if I can assist further!

10/30/2006 3:50 PM  
Blogger Robert Jack Wild said...

Hi Jimmy,

I wonder, why you don't make some really healthy and delicious burgers for your wife yourself? Is it so hard to beat McD in tastiness?


1/28/2008 4:41 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I don't eat at McDonald's, Jonathan. But I might if they offered some healthy LOW-CARB choices.

1/28/2008 6:24 PM  

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