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The secret’s out: McDonalds doesn’t serve very good food. What’s more–it’s not that cheap or convenient anymore.

 

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Decades of dominance in fast-food are threatened thanks to a combination of a more enlightened customer base moving up to real food, a still-probably-unenlightened customer base being forced by poverty to eat canned beans at home, and people somewhere in the middle grabbing something edible at fancy gas stations. It’s not a good place for McD’s to be.

I am almost sure deluxe convenience stores are cutting into fast food profits. If I want to just “grab something” in my neighborhood, I’m most likely to drop by a QuikTrip or another convenience store that not only sells cheap food off a rollergrill, but also gas and maybe even beer. One-stop shopping. McDonalds is losing the convenience war against places like 7-Eleven and AM/PM among people who don’t really care what they eat and are pressed for time.

So, now McD’s is in a bind. But I think I have an answer for them.

In most low-cost countries, McDonalds is seen as a luxury. It’s not a destination for poor or even working-class people in countries like Mexico. When I visited in the 1990’s, the McD’s in downtown Guadalajara resembled an opulent 3-story mansion, complete with marble floors and elegant wood panelling. The combo meals were still three bucks, but that was a lot more for Mexicans than for U.S. residents at the time. In that restaurant I found myself surrounded by the cream of Jalisciense society: doctors, lawyers, government officials, probably a few narcotraficantesIt was a high-line experience.

So, McDonalds needs to move upmarket, because moving downmarket would likely prove as deadly as just staying where they’re at–only faster. Gather what you will about the current state of the U.S. economy as we find it necessary to position McDonald’s as a premium product.

I propose that McDonalds use their facilities to cook up only the best fresh beef patties and real chicken, served with fresh toppings, fresh buns, and real french fries. The salads should be made on-site with only fresh ingredients. They can even start offering table service in the U.S. as they’ve recently started to do in Germany. I think it’s also reasonable for them to explore offering beer and wine in their U.S. locations. Beer and wine are very profitable for restaurants.

This wouldn’t work in all McDonalds locations, and it’s likely their network would need to shrink. It would also cause some dismay among regulars to find a Big Mac combo suddenly costs $12.79 instead of $4.79. But then quality always costs more, and really, most of us should be cooking more at home anyway.

So I expect to see something like this happen at McDonalds in the near future. McDonald’s has been around for decades and they’ve met each challenge with changes that ultimately helped them grow. But it’s unlikely they’re going to persuade franchisees to install gas stations near their drive-thrus.

How would you propose to save McDonalds? Leave a comment below.

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