How McDonald’s Can Make New Menu Item Execution More Manageable

By Joe Skupinsky

mcdonalds interior.jpgHas McDonald’s finally hit its stride with its newly announced menu items? Analyst Andrew Strelzik of BMO Capital Markets thinks so. From a stock perspective, he believes that McDonald’s is on pace to reach its 2019 objectives, which includes a cash return to shareholders. Finally, some good projections for the Golden Arches.

When it comes down to it, a $22 to $24 billion cash return to shareholders comes down to brand initiatives. According to Strelznik, McDonald’s is poised to benefit from new menu items, a corresponding large-scale marketing project to promote the new items, and a stronger brand image to support demand. McDonald’s is set to take advantage of an improving restaurant environment that will emerge in the second half of the year.

Today’s modern food culture values real, made-to-order food, and McDonald’s seems to have gotten the message. By mid-2018, customers who order a Quarter Pounder can expect a fresh beef patty off the grill, not from out of the freezer. The move to go fresh comes after the chain tested the fresh beef burgers at more than 400 restaurants in Dallas and Tulsa, OK, for about a year.Competitors Wendy’s, In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack all use fresh beef. Considering that McDonald’s revenue fell for the fourth year in a row last year, it might have been time for the company to return to its roots: the hamburger. That’s really what it comes down to, right? Quality food served in a quality environment by friendly staff. Everything else is a distraction (a point Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s seem to have realized by dropping the sexy ads and introducing a Baby Back Rib Burger).

Combine that with the fact that McDonald’s has recently lowered prices across its drink menu, and launched a line of Minute Maid slushies in the Midwest and South. Indeed, it seems like Mickey D’s has a spring in its step as it aims to recapture lost customers.

Food Safety is a Top Concern Among Franchisees

As a brand initiative, McDonald’s fresh beef is exciting, but don’t forget that when it was first being tested in restaurants, franchisees were rightfully concerned about speed of execution and food safety. According to a Nomura survey, one franchisee wrote, “If we do not handle the meat perfectly, there is an opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product.”  

That is absolutely true, and brings to light storage, handling, and preparation concerns. Food safety is a wide-scale, concerted effort that requires attention to detail, documentation and adequate follow-up. It’s one thing to test a concept in 400 restaurants. It’s another ballgame to have more than 10,000 restaurants offering fresh beef. And in an organization as sprawling as McDonald’s, food safety is going to require the initiative of forward-thinking franchisees.

Forward-thinking is about using technology to your advantage. It’s about realizing that there’s a better way to communicate through real-time, cloud-based technologies, and that there’s a better way to document kitchen conditions than paper and pen.

Let’s face it: it’s safe to never change your menu and to never change. It’s also how brands lose—when they can’t adapt. As one McDonald’s franchisee stated, "Our line continues to slow down with added items and will continue to do so. However, we are a restaurant and we ought to always serve the best food so [the slow down of the line] may not outweigh the positive [of adding fresher ingredients]."

A lot of critics have wondered if McDonald’s would ever be able to make a comeback. It seems like all the pieces are finally coming together. The question remains: are franchisees up for the challenge? Will they be able to navigate the “noise” of more foot traffic, avoiding distraction and prioritizing food safety?

There are tools to help franchisees create a consistent customer experience. Check out Zenput’s mobile form for gaining store insights and contact us for a demo.

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Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, cleanliness

How to Get Your Store’s Litter Problem Under Control

By Brian Harris

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I’ve always had great respect for people in custodial services. A family friend emigrated from Europe to start cleaning offices, and another high school friend’s father had a business that cleaned gyms and clubs in New York. In fact, he was allowed to borrow his client’s Lamborghini one day, and drove it to pick up my friend from school. It’s the first and only time—and quite possibly the last—that I’ll sit in a Lamborghini (I barely had my license at the time, so no driving).And why is it that in news stories and movies, the underdogs are always the janitor or custodian? Think of the Columbia University janitor who earned his undergraduate degree after 12 years, and Will Hunting from “Good Will Hunting.” Rooting for the janitor is the American way, and so is respecting the work they do. In other words, clean up your stuff!That’s why I was glad to read this recent NACS article, where the nonprofit organization ‘Keep America Beautiful’ shared some dirt on litter at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. It turns out that there’s a psychology behind littering - approximately 85% of littering is the result of people’s attitudes. Simply put, people who see litter are more likely to litter. Notably, food packaging from convenience stores and fast-food restaurants makes up 5% of all litter in the United States. However, it accounts for approximately 19% of the “visible” litter stream, or those items that measure more than 4 inches.Time to get the litter situation under control!

‘It’s the Small Trash After All’

Other than the cast of lovable characters, part of Walt Disney’s legacy was how to operate an amusement park with world-class efficiency. He wanted to create the ultimate customer experience—and that included taking out the trash. Trash cans in Disney World are 30 feet apart based on Walt’s personal observation of guests moving throughout the park with food. How often do you go to a store and either can’t find the trash can or you feel like you need a hazmat suit to approach it?A team effort is required to regularly pick up the trash and properly dispose of it in a larger receptacle or dumpster. There must also be a concerted effort to clean up food and beverage trails and traces, lest you attract unwelcome, pesky visitors.If your customers are like the people in my apartment building, your recycling will be overflowing, too, because taking care of the environment is very important to Millennial consumers. And there’s no butts about it—smoking is on the decline, with only about 15% of U.S. adults lighting up in 2015, according to the CDC. So sweep up those cigarette remnants before they become a turn-off to customers thinking about entering the store, especially for foodservice.

Raising the Bar on Cleanliness

Mediocrity is a dangerous place for a brand. If you’re not raising the bar, you’re either operating with a false sense of complacency or on the decline in areas you may not even realize. It’s time to give teeth to the otherwise toothless memo for stores to “clean up their act.”

Distribute mobile forms that track the compliance of basic tasks that can elevate a brand. For example, in the form below, a regional manager would have to answer a 'Yes' or 'No' question about trash being at a reasonable level. Be able to pinpoint the store that keeps getting “no” on this question, or if enough “no” responses are recorded across the region, it might be time to adjust your trash disposal methods and/or pickup schedule.

Also, take note of the option to rate trash levels on a sliding scale. Receive an alert for any store ranked “1” with overflowing garbage. Add a video (or photo) to document the problem. Senior management will be able to see these results in real-time and choose to respond in real-time if they wish. That’s how technology raises the bar - through transparency and accountability.

See more of Zenput’s mobile form examples, and explore the platform’s functionality for convenience stores and restaurants: https://www.zenput.com/mobile-forms/
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Topics: C-store, cleanliness