McDonald’s Latest Move: Heading for a Fall?


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Love them or hate them, most of us have eaten at McDonald’s at some point and therefore you are familiar with their menu and their experience: Fast, cheap food that you can get all over the world. But how is the high price of cheap affecting their experience?

Some of you may be thinking that it already has. If you believe any of the rumors about their food and the ingredients’ suspect origins then you already think that quality is an issue. Some of you, who love the golden arches, might be thinking that their experience is top drawer that you get a great product you love at a good price that has a consistent taste no matter where you are in the world.


Both sides have their points. In fact, when I am running training sessions I ask people which side of the fence they sit and normally McDonald’s splits opinions down the middle. Taste is subjective. Far be it from me to argue on either side of this point.

McDonald’s is poised to be the Top Restaurant Chain in the year 2020 according to analysts. It seems ‘top’ means sales, not the quality of their overall experience. They were number one last year, with billing of $35.9 Billion. That number is projected to rise to $43.8 Billion in the next six years. With numbers like that, it’s hard to imagine that they are having any problems financially.

McDonald’s workers are hardly overpaid. According to the Huffington Post, the average fast food workers make $8.90 per hour, and speculation is that McDonald’s workers make even less than that.

So when I read that managers are asked to cut employee’s pay to keep tight margins profitable, or even worse that they are asking employees to clock out and continue working, I was surprised to say the least. This is clearly an inwardly focused move like cutting the pay of the lowest paid workers will end up hurting the experience for the customers. Imagine how concerned about quality you would be if you were asked (or in this case ordered) to keep doing your low-paying job for free?

Of course, that’s just my speculation, from someone who studies employee engagement and its affect on customer experience. The truth is that I have no way of knowing what the employees are thinking or doing in this situation. But I fear the worse. I can tell you that quality wouldn’t be my top priority in this situation. I wrote how this type of move has affected Wal-Mart’s experience.

There is one way, however, that you know that keeping those margins profitable is affecting customer experience that is a fact: Drive Thru wait times.

Long Waits Causing Big Mac Style Disappointment to Customers

If you are employing a drive thru, chances are that you are in a hurry, so much so that you don’t even go in the restaurant. So the last thing you are looking for is a long wait. Most customers are expecting a minute or less in the drive thru line.

McDonald’s has a little over a 3-minute wait time in the drive thru, according to a recent survey in QSR Magazine. They aren’t the slowest; a spot claimed by Krystal, a Fast food chain based in Atlanta, GA, that had a 3 and half minute wait. Regardless of whether they are the slowest, they have been addressing customer complaints about long wait times for a while now. Last year, they announced that they would add another window to fix the problem.

My assertion is that you can trace this long wait time to the amount of staff there to fulfill orders during the busiest times and the engagement of the employees that are there to get the food out quickly. I have a feeling that these two factors have an impact on the wait times that customers experience in the drive thru line.

The good news about this wait time is that McDonald’s is testing a program to shorten the wait to less than one minute this month in some South Florida locations. The customer will be given a timer when they order. If McDonald’s fails to deliver the customer’s food in that minute, then they give the customer a coupon for a free lunch item.  To McDonald’s credit, they are performing this test during the noon to 1pm lunch rush so it will be an accurate test of their new system.

I am a capitalist like anyone else. It’s important to be profitable. Margins are one of the things that make profits possible and far be it from me to say that a business shouldn’t do what they can to make sure that they have a margin that keeps a company in the black.

However, when to keep your margins low you have to cut your lowest paid employees pay or encourage your managers to have employees clock out, but continue to stay on the job to maintain them, then your experience is sure to suffer. Right now it’s long wait times at the drive thru. What will it be next and how will that affect your bottom line? How much is that cheap food going to cost you in profits?

These are questions that McDonald’s needs to consider. If they continue with the kind of employee experience practices that they currently employ, customers will have anything but a happy meal.

What are your thoughts on McDonald’s? I would be really interested in your comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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