McDonald's Innovation Is Paying off with Its New Customer Experience Design in Europe. And When Is a McDonald's Not a McDonald's Anymore?

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by: Idris Mootee

Fast food is boring and honestly I am not a fast food fan. It is not exactly an enjoyable experience but you go for the convenience. I must say I am very impressed with what they are doing in Europe. When was the last time you enjoyed sitting in a McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendys?

Now this may change. A McDonald’s in Wolfratshausen, Germany, offers espresso drinks on its McCafe menu. A McCafe in Hong Kong (picture bottom) offers a selection of good quality deserts. A McDonald’s in London looks like the lounge in a trendy boutique hotel (picture above). Is that the future of McDonald?

I think this is the largest overhaul in more than 20 years and, with its franchisees, it plans to spend more than 600 million euros (about $830 mm), remodeling more than 1200 European restaurants in the next 16 months. The challenge is what happens to Ronald McDonald? Will these new cool McDonalds become not McDonalds? Do we need to give Uncle McDonald a new costume and hairstyle? There is no simple question to this answer. How easy is it to dismiss this by saying this is off brand? Or is this the best way to make McDonald’s young and relevant again?

McDonald’s is also introducing healthier foods and items that cater to regional tastes, like caffè lattes and they are also adding amenities like Internet access and rental iPods. The food factory in Munich is working on new menus for the different tastes in the 41 European countries, including Russia. In Britain, McDonald’s restaurants started to serve porridge for breakfast. In Portugal, they offer soup and in France, cheese saga — burgers with French cheeses. What’s next? McDonald’s sushi in Japan? This investment is paying off as sales in Europe grew 15%. This is no question the biggest innovation for the company ever.

All these innovative ideas came from Denis Hennequin, president of McDonald’s Europe, the first non-American in that role. As head of McDonald’s restaurants in his native France in the late 1990s, Mr. Hennequin had searched for ways to make fast food more appealing to a nation that prefers slow-simmered cassoulets and likes to savor a meal. In fact, the whole fast food industry is ripe for a complete makeover, not a botox job. It needs to redefine its customer experiences and take a hard look at what “fast food” means. Fast food doesn’t need to be “junk food”. I think everyone in the industry better start looking at what is needed to transform this industry.

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