Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dessert Kiosks

The McChronices is in China, reviewing the practices that McDonald's is implementing in this important and unique market. One observation has to do with an attempt at market segmentation.

In China, two elements of life are critical: speed and money. People need and expect extremely fast service. They simply will not wait too long for anything. There are way too many alternatives for almost every product or service - a customer can easily replace any vendor or product. A vendor has to strike while the iron is hot.

McDonald's wants and needs to be in prime locations (and that's where consumers want them). As in any major city, the prime locations (street-level, major intersections, etc.) are highly-prized. To acquire sales opportunities, to capture impulse-buy customers, and to reduce costs, McDonald's has developed a "dessert kiosk" concept. They use a very small footprint store at street level (low cost and good advertising), they sell a very limited menu (soda, pies, and ice cream), and they direct people to a 2nd-floor or nearby full restaurant(advertising, suggestive selling).

These kiosks are very visible, and in excellent consumer locations. The service is simple and fast (limited menu)-and every customer is reminded in some way that there is a full meal waiting nearby.

Images: McChronicles

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Blinding Speed

Business is TOUGH at busy locations. And you don't get much busier than at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Customers won't stand in line for much under travel conditions, and often they CAN'T afford to wait.

To maximize profits, the McDonald's in this airport have to be super-fast. The McChronicles is always impressed with the speed of service, AND with the quality of the food, at O'Hare. We sampled the service by ordering a Big Mac in Terminal E, near gate 2 (store #22821). We made it a bit disruptive by asking for no cheese. In less than 60 seconds we were searching for a place to sit - it was that fast. Store Manager Louis Gage is clearly doing something right. When asked, the counter person said that this was a good place to work (though the commute into the secure site is a bit tough).

We wonder what it costs to provide such great service - we notice a relatively high number of crew. And we wonder how a store with such tough demands can achieve this success and why other stores, with much milder conditions, seem to have such trouble.

Image: McChronicles

Friday, August 26, 2005


What Mel Brooks fan can forget the line in Spaceballs (The Movie) where Yogurt says,

"Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs the T-shirt. Spaceballs the lunchbox. Spaceballs the coloring book. Spaceballs... the flamethrower! Kids love it. And my favorite, Spaceballs the Doll -- me!"

Of course, Yogurt, as played by Mel Brooks himself, goes deep into character and delivers all his lines with a quaint Brooklyn/Yiddish accent. So, "merchandising" comes out sounding like "moichindising"!

Anyway, here we have McChronicles ... the golf shirt.
An awesome white, short-sleeve beauty that is just the thing for catching those pesky secret sauce spills from your unwieldy Big Mac and for wiping your hands on after dipping into a hot packet of large fries. Oh yes, it sports The McChronicles logo, comes in YOUR size, and is available for immediate delivery.

Congratulations to our contest winner, Jan-Willem, from the Netherlands, for winning one of these awesome additions to any fast-fooder's wardrobe. He was the first person to get The McChronicles logo to appear in the
Flick'r image bar in the left-hand column of this blog. We'll expect to see another picture - this time of HIM wearing this limited edition fashion statement.

Contact The McChronicles to place your order today (PayPal only - US$25 plus shipping).

And may the Schwartz be with you!

Focus On South Utica

A focus group of twenty-something males met at the South Utica (Utica), Genesee St., NY, USA restaurant (store #18030) for lunch today. Here is the consensus:

  • Quality: The food was warm and good. One young man was stunned to see how small the cheese was on his filet-o-fish. We chalk that up to his unawareness, not to a local issue.
  • Service: Quick. The crew was neutral to friendly.
  • Cleanliness: It was well-after 1PM on a Friday, still, the customers just kept coming. The tables were a bit untidy, and the floor didn't appear to have been swept since before the lunch rush started. We did note a girl tidying up at around 2PM.

This store has a GREAT location, and it offers a bright, relaxing dining room, complete with a fish tank (previously posted). As is the case with many other stores, we would like to see an increased emphasis on cleanliness, both in the dining room and behind the counter.

During this visit we noticed the owner breeze in for a quick check, and to grab some lunch. Additionally, The McChronicles was very happy to donate to the epilepsy fund raiser that was being staged at this store.

The South Utica store is so close to being great - just a bit more to go.

Image: McChronicles

Looking Good

A friend of The McChronicles has shared a few images of new interior designs coming out of Europe (from the McDonald's Netherlands website). Thanks JW.

We understand from reports that this site, in
the south eastern part of Amsterdam on the Muntberweg, LCD screens, digital menu boards, a wireless hotspot, and more.

It is great to see that McDonald's continues to push hard in their evolution. The McChronicles feels they are doing a wonderful job of remaining contemporary AND maintaining their good traditions.

With these classy good looks it is easy to imagine the crew and customers feeling great about their time spent inside the restaurant.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Some McDonald's restaurants have murals painted on the interior walls.
Here is an example of a great work that can be found in the Johnstown, NY McDonald's.

We were reminded of these creations by a Flick'r posting that appeared on our site recently. It's worth a click.

Send in your images of cool murals that appear in a McDonald's. If we get a few we'll post them up in a gallery.

Image: McChronicles

GOLDEN ARCHES ALIVE: Shades of "Hilltop"

Here's a chance to make history!

According to a media alert from The McDonald's Operators of the Capital District appearing on Empire Information Service's website, "The internationally recognized symbol of McDonald's - the Golden Arches - will be formed by people dressed in golden ponchos at the Riverfront Park in Albany to celebrate McDonald's partnerships in the community. One of the McDonald's restaurant owners, Pat Arnott, will be flying her plane over the Golden Arches for a photograph of the event. "

The event is scheduled to occur on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at Riverfront Park in Albany, NY, USA. For more information, contact Mary Scanlan, Scanlan Communications Group, +1-518-424-5125.

This reminds The McChronicles of A REALLY BIG AD that comes from downunder. Worth a view.

The McChronicles would LOVE to receive images or video from anyone who participates in this event.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Work Of Art, In Clay

A McChronicles team paid a visit to the Clay, NY McDonald's and had a great experience. Beautiful woodwork, metal accents, ceramic (marble-like) tiles, a "reading room"-like area, and flat-panel TVs are offered in hopes of making this experience one to blog about. We were particularly impressed by the very clean and well-appointed rest room facilities.

We weren't quite able to determine the proper description for the motif ... is it Victorian? Art Deco? Or what? We're the first to admit that we're not up to this task. Whatever it is, we like it. Interestingly, this site is in the final throes of reimaging (some scaffolding can be seen in the image above). The work appears to be non-intrusive into the diners' experience - it didn't bother our team one bit.

The food was above average - quite tasty and well-presented - while the service was average.

We couldn't resist offering this rest room image - to inspire other McDonald's to rise to the challenge.

All photos: The McChronicles

Sayre Smile

The McChronicles hit the Sayre, Pennsylvania McDonald's (store #1888) today. The restaurant was clean and friendly. The theme is the beautiful Susquehanna Valley, with its nostalgic train routes, bucolic farms, wooded hillsides, and, of course, the lovely river.

The service was "average" and the food was prepared to perfection.

Image: The McChronicles

Monday, August 22, 2005

Good Horse Sense

The McChronicles dropped in for an evaluation of the Wilton, NY McDonald's. Since this restaurant is just north of the famed Saratoga Race Track, the theme is horse racing.

This restaurant was busy during the mid-week lunch rush, yet appeared clean and tidy. Service was fast - and the location is excellent (very convenient for driving to and from anywhere in the region). We witnessed a healthy mix of families, teens, travelling salespeople, and contractors - all enjoying a brief rest before they headed out into their late-summer afternoon.

This McDonald's is worth a visit, whether you're running around the Saratoga area, or taking a run on the I-87 Northway.

Counter Intuitive

Isn't it a little counter intuitive to think that, by performing your behind-the-scenes stock replenishment activities right at the sales counter, you would maintain or increase your brand in the eyes of your customer?

What are they thinking in Johnstown, NY? A recent visit by The McChronicles found the customer with almost NO room to place and receive their order. Why? Because the crew was unpacking and handling condiments, sauces, napkins, etc. right on the counter.

Hey management, give the crew some appropriate space to do their job - without forcing the customer to deal with it.

Awesome Presentation

The McChronicles paid two visits to the Johnstown, NY McDonald's recently. Both times we were delighted with a PERFECT sandwich presentation.

So many times we are disappointed by sloppy condiment application and wrapping (see numerous previous postings). We're almost resigned to the fact that this isn't going to be addressed. THEN ... we encounter the Johnstown restaurant that delivers a perfectly prepared and wrapped Big Mac. Just to be sure, The McChronicles dropped back in the following day and ordered the same thing. PERFECTION! Kudos to the crew and to the management that inspires this performance.

This '50s-era-themed store has a fresh, fun look, complete with table-top juke box decorations and statues of both Marilyn Monroe and The King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley.

image: The McChronicles

Rave Review

The Houston Chronicle's Ken Hoffman had these good words to say about the new McDonald's Premium Chicken Sandwich offerings: "I wouldn't want to be in Wendy's or Burger King's shoes when word about these sandwiches gets around."

Read more from the Houston Chronicle.
Image: Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle

What is your opinion of these sandwiches? The McChronicles would like to know. Please comment.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Special McD's

The McChronicles noted (in the Flick'r image section in our left-hand column) a beautiflu BISTRO McDonald's, reportedly in Del Mar, California. It reminded us of a really snazzy McDonald's we investigated in Naples, Florida. Though different, they both delivered a relatively high-end, classy experience.

This image (posted on Flick'r) depicts stained and art deco glass treatments, as well as period tile flooring and interesting accents. The Naples restaurant offered up a very inviting "living room" experience, complete with couches, end tables, a fireplace and a wide-screen LCD TV.

We appreciate that "reimaging" is expensive, disruptive, and risky (on a financial basis). But we certainly enjoy eating in an attractive and inviting atmosphere. Kudos and "thanks" to those sites than are able to offer this ambiance.

Friday, August 12, 2005

On The Right Track

The McChronicles has noted an increased emphasis on general cleanliness at the New Hartford, NY McDonald's. The key ingredient in this effort, of course, is the general awareness of, and emphasis on, improved cleanliness. ATTITUDE is everything - and it is showing in New Hartford.

Image: New Hartford, NY Interior

It is being backed up by a newly-added, dedicated clean-up person who is now seen patrolling the dining area. Customers LOVE clean tables, tidy condiment areas, and ready trash bins. During peak times things can get messy and the bins can get crammed full. This new person, who is seen at the store during the lunch shift, promises to make all those annoyances (turn-offs) a thing of the past. As frequent diners, we certainly hope that this occurs.

In addition, we have noticed additional crew members tidying up in their spare time. It seems that this store has upped their emphasis on cleanliness - and we appreciate the respect.

We would prefer if the dedicated clean-up person dressed like the rest of the crew. We have noted a few reactions from diners who thought a customer was rearranging the condiments and tidying up (that was our reaction when we first encountered this person - and it feels weird thinking that a customer is performing these duties unofficially). The uniform is a signal to us that a bona fide employee is on the job.

THANK YOU, New Hartford, for respecting your customers by providing a cleaner, more orderly dining room.

PS: Wipe down the window sills. Certain things have been there for weeks.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Super SHRINK Me! (to the tune of -37 pounds)

"Inspired by the documentary "Super Size Me," Merab Morgan decided to give a fast-food-only diet a try. The construction worker and mother of two ate only at McDonald's for 90 days - and dropped 37 pounds in the process." This according to an article (requires free membership registration) that appeared today in The Mercury News.

The McChronicles has refrained from commenting on Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me". Now we feel there is a legitimate counter-example to offer up.

The article quotes Walt Riker, McDonald's vice president of corporate communications, as saying "Spurlock's film really spurred a backlash based on common sense." Exactly!

Image from Duke Human Resources website.

Arizona Manager Has The Right Spirit

The Wickenburg (AZ) Sun newspaper reports on a McDonald's manager who puts his heart and soul into the McDonald's customer experience. Mr Eric Harley leads by example, and according to the article, his staff follows. In The McChronicles' opinion, those that are following Eric's example are actually LEADING the industry.

the article (it is easy to see that the interviewer was really impressed with the team spirit, performance, and enthusiasm that this manager imparts). We'd love to see many more Eric Harleys managing McDonald's across the globe.

A big McChronicles salute of respect and thanks to Eric!

Photo from Wickenburg Sun website.

Friday, August 05, 2005

New China McDonald's Planned

According to a report by Forbes' online news service:

AFX News Limited
McDonald's, KFC to open hundreds of new outlets in China this year
SHANGHAI (AFX) - KFC's and McDonald's China operations are planning to open hundreds of new restaurants this year, the National Business Daily said. The report said McDonald's China is planning to open at least 100 new outlets in a bid to boost profits after an 'unsatisfactory' first half. Major rival KFC said it will open at least 200 new stores, including 35 in Shanghai, the report said. McDonald's owns 680 restaurants in China, and KFC more than 1,300.

The McChronicles has toured China McDonald's sites in the past, and is scheduling another trip soon to check things out. We plan to be in Shanghai and other cities to experience the McDonald's brand and to report on it.

We think it will be interesting to see what store designs are being implemented at this time, as well as what menu items are offered. Of course, there is always the usual McChronicles focus on Quality, Cleanliness, and Service.

Let us know what else we can report on that would be interesting to you.

Photo Source: BBC website, AP Photo

Monday, August 01, 2005

Attention To Detail

A McChronicles team recently dropped in and spot-tested the situation by purchasing one hamburger at 2PM, when the restaurant was nearly empty (little demand). Unfortunately, with all this going for them, the crew couldn't manage to deliver a neat, tidy burger.

This is what it boils down to. The moment of truth. No distractions, nothing much else going on, and a customer asks McDonald's for one hamburger. If a company was going to shine, you'd expect it to happen under these conditions.

This image depicts the moment of truth - the instant the burger was unwrapped. Imagine what happened to the McDonald's brand at that moment in the eyes of the customer.