Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Appreciate This

Today The McChronicles went out on a rare solo mission. The Clinton, NY McDonald's served as the laboratory today.

  • Clinton, NY: store # 2499
  • Line Wait: 4.0 minutes
  • Order Wait: 1.0 minutes
  • Order: one hamburger, one medium Coke
  • Quality: Good
  • Service: Poor
  • Cleanliness: nothing noted, seemed fine

There were 3 people in line as I entered the counter area, with two lines/registers and, seemingly, a full crew in action. The line moved very slowly and there was virtually NO engagement with the customers. In other words, we were all left wondering why things were moving so slowly. Additionally, my order was extremely simple, and included only a drink and the trademark product - one hamburger.

So, why did it take one minute to pick up a hamburger that was sitting in the hopper and to fill one cup? Who cares why! It did.

And how can management not educate and empower their crew to be concerned with/responsible for the customer experience? Who cares how! That's the way it is.

The result? This "customer evangelist" was left feeling like I didn't matter. That I wasn't important, and that no one really cares.

But it's OK. A McDonald's spokesperson says, "we appreciate that customers who related to our brand are sharing their thoughts about McDonald's with others."

That's right.

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Image: The McChronicles

Saturday, November 26, 2005

McChronicles McDonald's Blog Featured in US News & World Report Magazine

The McChronicles McDonald's blog is featured in the current US News & World Report magazine. This issue includes a story on "customer evangelists" and features The McChronicles as one example. The story appears online, be sure to read all 3 pages The McChronicles appears on page 2 of the US News & World Report story).

An interesting quote from the story is, "Look how many companies seem befuddled about how to deal with pro-company bloggers like McChronicles, a blog devoted to one McDonald's fanatic's take on the Golden Arches. It's written by a guy in the Northeast--he didn't want his name used in this story--who visits McDonald's here and abroad, reviewing the restaurants for service, food quality, and cleanliness. Sometimes the reviews are critical, but often they're positive. And even the negative ones are written with a constructive attitude. It's clear that McDonald's holds a special place in his heart and stomach."

Read the entire US News & World Report story on customer evangelism, featuring The McChronicles.

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Image: US News.com

McDonald's Banner Ad

The McChronicles dragged itself out of bed this morning (after a hard day of recovering from Thanksgiving) to find an interesting banner ad on Weather.com.

We don't recall ever seeing such an ad from McDonald's, so we were a bit intrigued. The ad was tied to our PC's internal clock so it knew what time it was at our office - and told us so in the ad. Cool!

Curious (hungry) the ad led us to a tantalizing (a matter of taste, we know) web page promoting McGriddles breakfast sandwiches.

We have to admit that it made us hunger for some breakfast. We're just not sure it would be prudent to leave The McChronicles central command in a cold, windy snow storm (see image). Maybe for lunch!?!? Time will tell.

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Top: Weather.com
Bottom: The McChronicles

Black Friday at the Sangertown Square McDonald's

The Sangertown Square Mall (New Hartford, NY) is THE place to shop in Oneida County - especially on Black Friday. The McChronicles spent a little time observing the activity at this restaurant, trying to see how they were handling this special day, and this special opportunity.

  • The crew was well-staffed up (we were there around 3PM). There were many more people than we are used to seeing working behind the counter , and they did keep the line down.
  • The crew was wearing special red "Happy Holidays" tee-shirts. Kind of festive and fun.

Missed Opportunity:

  • As we watched the crew going about their business, and as we noticed that the mall was much busier than usual, we wondered what McDonald's had done to take advantage of this once-a-year special day. It appeared that, beyond staffing up to be able to process more customers per hour, nothing special was happening. We couldn't help but wonder how much more business they could have had, or how much they could have enhanced their brand/image had they done something special.

Now, we don't know what it takes to manage a McDonald's and we imagine it must be pretty tough. But we also know that there are precious few opportunities to make something special happen. Goals might have been to increase their share of all food sold in the mall's food court, to bolster their brand/image in the hearts of their community & customer base, etc. Specific activities could have included offering a package check service for holiday shoppers so they could enjoy a meal without having to manage their bags, sponsoring a local school caroling event, or they could have given out free "buy 1 get 1" coupons for french fries or something.

As fans of McDonald's, The McChronicles would have loved to see the company seize this opportunity to take a step forward.

Image: The McChronicles

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Old McDonald's Theme Song

And speaking of McDonald's Commercials, The McChronicles has unearthed these performances by some of yesterday's stars. They are all singing the "You, You Are The One" jingle from the old days (These take a minute to download. Best if you right-click and open in a new window):

Old school is cool. We even dig the groovy skips, hisses, and pops off the vinyl records from which these files were made. (Please pardon our slip into '60s hip - we got into the moment. Hope you do, too).

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Image & Links from wfmu.org

Monday, November 21, 2005

Awesome McDonald's Commercial

Go ahead and name a cool McDonald's commercial that you've seen lately.

Yeah, us neither. The McChronicles gang thought about it for a while, then, when stumped, turned to the internet. It seems that the last really great ad from McDonald's was way back in 1993. The ad, called "Showdown", pits Michael Jordan against Larry Bird in an outlandish game of "HORSE" (or "PIG", depends on where you come from, or how much time you've got). Videolink compliments of our good friends at FastFoodWebLog (you should check these guys out).

Another great McDonald's commercial is the 1971 "Clean Up". It is said that this ad spawned the "You deserve a break today" jingle. The photo above is from that award-winner. No video link. Anyone?

We even unearthed a 2002 USA Today review of McDonald's that offered this tip, "For decades, McDonald's was almost as widely recognized for its advertising as for its food. In fact, some say the image created by the chain's early ad campaigns — "You deserve a break today" — helped establish the image of McDonald's as a place that is clean, wholesome and special. Its current slogan, "We love to see you smile," has little direct connection to the food, Hickok complains. It is rare, he says, for a fast-food campaign to be successful when it doesn't focus on the food. "

It's time to bust one loose!

Image: AdAge Website

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Jackie Huba Mentions McChronicles McDonald's Blog

Media Maven Jackie Huba of the Church of the Customer blog named The McChronicles McDonald's blog as one example of citizen marketing.

This time she discussed us on the TomorrowConnecting.biz website. We have also been the subject of discussion on her site, Church of The Customer, not once, but twice. Okay, three times.

Media pundits feel that average citizens, like us, like you, like the regular Joes that enjoy a handy, warm McDonald's value meal, are an increasingly-important voice. And we agree. That's why we are glad to speak out. Feel free to join us. Comment anytime.

Thanks Jackie.

Image: taken from
TomorrowConnecting Website

The McChronicles: A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Clinton McDonald's Shines

How do you shine when the weather is abominable? Ask the staff of the Clinton, NY McDonald's .

  • Line Wait: 0 seconds
  • Order Wait: (Two Cheeseburger Value Meal, no cheese, no pickles): 1 minute 40 seconds
  • Quality: Very Good
  • Service: Good
  • Cleanliness: Good
  • Time: 11:57AM
  • Store: 2499

While the winds were gusting at up to 40 mph, the rain was coming down in buckets, and the temperature was plummeting, The McChronicles led an international focus group of 5 people into action. We scored THE best parking spot (next to the door) so we only got semi-drenched (would have been a good day to use the drive-thru!).

There was a line of about 5 people waiting to order, but we waited exactly ZERO seconds to be waited on. Our order was customized (burgers, no pickles) and it arrived warm and tasty in a respectable time. The dining room was clean and we all had fun. Isn't that what it is all about? Good job Clinton!

PS: This store features a real train caboose as a special dining room!

Image: The McChronicles (taken on a much better day)

The McChronicles. A blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

McDonald's Straw & Napkin Dispensers

The McChronicles recently vented on the topic of unappealing condiment presentation, cup tops, etc. We'd now like to make amends by offering up a few more suggestions for improvement - and to share some things we like.

Napkin Dispensers:
There is more than one kind. The older wooden style is not as good as the newer pop-out type. The wooden style (see below) gets jammed up easily when too many napkins are put inside. We have even had the entire front panel fall out when wrestling with a recalcitrant napkin.

We prefer the newer tissue-dispenser pop-out style (to the right). The napkins come out easily - end of story. They also appear to provide ample heads-up when the supply is running low.

Straw Dispensers:
McDonald's offers several styles of straw dispensers, and they are found in various locations within each store, depending on the store (a little confusing sometimes). Pictured here (bottom image) is a problematic situation. This is an example of "two rights make a wrong". You see, the machine was built to dispense unwrapped straws. It works pretty well for that (not perfect - crooked straws can jam it up). But people don't like other people pawing at unprotected straws. So, the wrapped straw was introduced.

Wrapped straws remain cleaner, but they're too big for the machine - so they jam it up. Notice, in the bottom image, that, though fully stocked, the machine has no straws available for customers. They're all stuck (too wide due to the wrappers).

We like the new napkin dispenser and we like the wrapped straws. Once everything gets working smoothly this issue will be a thing of the past.

This should be easy - McDonald's should be the world's best at this.

All Images: The McChronicles
McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

McDonald's China Website Is Cool

The McChronicles was noodling around on the web and decided to re-explore the McDonald's China website. It is certainly festive and fun. It offers up rap, trendy images, and lots to do. It is certainly a "destination" site for Chinese teens.

Be sure to crank up the sound to enjoy the music.

Image: McDonald's China website
McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

And Speaking of Self-Service ...

Yes, we delved into the subject of customer self-service in a previous McChronicles post. And here is more info on that same subject.

Our friends over at Fast Food News just reported that McDonald's (and other fast food purveyors) are preparing to introduce customer self-service. They cite a story from WFAA.com that includes this info:

"It shortens the customer wait and improves order accuracy because it removes the language barrier (an NCR machine can include up to 26 languages)."

"The technology's most obvious savings would be labor costs."

"NCR is doing "controlled deployment" of kiosks and has about 60 of them running at franchised McDonald's locations in cities including Houston, Orlando and Denver, said Peter Charpentier, product manager in the NCR retail solutions division."

Add this to the existing credit/debit card self-service already in place and things could really start moving a lot faster.

Ron Baselice, DMN, from WFAA.com

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

FAST FOOD: "It's Not Life or Death"

Some criticize The McChronicles for taking fast food (McDonald's in particular) too seriously.

Our friends at FastFoodFever pointed out a funny video that reminds us to lighten up a little. Have some fun with "FAST FOOD".

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

McChronicles Needs To Vent (just a little)

The McChronicles recently encountered a situation that we complained about before. It rekindled our feelings for this issue and set us off. Here goes.

It's OK that we customers have to self-serve our drinks, condiments, straws, napkins, etc. (depending on the store). And we even appreciate why (costs, speed, etc.). It's OK. But just remember a few things. For example:

  1. We have been trained by multiple sources, for decades, that cleanliness counts. The McChronicles even posted about an NBC special show called "Dirty Dining". When the ketchup dispenser, napkin dispenser, and condiment tubs are all cruddy (YES, cruddy, see the image), many of us aren't feeling real good about things. It kind of diminishes the main reason we choose to do business with McDonald's (or any restaurant). PS: Spring for some professional labels. You know you are offering Splenda, Equal, and Sugar (and plan to do so for years) - so pretend you are professional. We LOVE that.
  2. We want things to be carefree, easy, simple, etc. So, don't attempt to produce artificial diamonds by cramming as many napkins into the wooden style napkin dispenser as is humanly possible (we prefer the pop-out style we've been seeing lately). Every time we see that monster we shudder. When it is packed, a customer grabs a napkin, pulls, and ends up with a sliver of paper between their fingers (with a ripped napkin still stuck in the dispenser). Or, way too many napkins come out. Sometimes the entire napkin holder falls out. See the attached image. We posted about this before, too.
  3. We don't work at McDonald's and don't know your secret codes. For example, we don't know the difference between a "12 oz cold", "16/21 oz Lids", "32 oz cold", and "Hot Lids" ... and we don't want to learn. See picture. And, completing the circle, when we try to grab one lid, inadvertently picking up two, then put one back, we don't like to wonder who had previously handled the lid we're using, what disease they may have, if they washed their hands before exiting the rest room, or if they dropped it into little Mary's stroller before retrieving it and putting it back because it was the wrong size (Dirty Dining).

These are the details that empowered crew members, and caring, dialed-in managers take care of. It all starts with store management/owners that live the customer experience.

You are spending money to do this stuff anyway. Please do it right. What a great opportunity to set the world standard for quality and cleanliness in customer self-service. McDonald's leads the industry in so many things. This should be simple.

Images: The McChronicles

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Very Bad Service in Endicott

A small contingent of Team McChronicles dropped into the Endicott, NY McDonald's (store #4860) for an early-evening snack.
We were hoping to dart in, grab something light, something quick, then get back on the road. The exterior seemed nice - a very quaint English Tudor style treatment. This was feeling good.

Upon entering we saw a very small crowd at the counter so it looked like we would receive speedy service. Then it all started.

After our eyes adjusted from the outside darkness, we could see that this store was not in the best of conditions. The basic wall, ceiling, floor situation looked like it hadn't been updated in over a decade. The one attempt at trying to match the interior to the exterior really came off poorly. When they tried to add some "wood" they simply nailed up some paneling, then painted it. Well, the paint is peeling and chipping so badly that fuzz from customers' clothes is stuck in it (see image). Obviously this isn't a new development. How long has this been ignored? It reminded us of the Canastota McDonald's and the Little Falls McDonald's.

On top of that, the service was very poor. With no line at the counter (when it was our turn), and with minimal drive-thru demand, the counter person seemed quite smug. He appeared to derive great pleasure out of pushing a charity promotion (add $1 to your bill for ...). Too bad he didn't greet the customers (at all, no words, no smile, etc.). And he attempted no explanation when two hamburgers took about 5 minutes to arrive (no exact time was recorded this time). Even when we stood there, face to face, with no other people around, locked in the wait from hell, he simply didn't say a word. It was like we weren't even there. And time dragged on, and on, and on ...

We walked in excited to have found a convenient and inviting McDonald's. Our "high" was quickly converted to a "low" by a manager that seems to care less about customer satisfaction, a crew that couldn't deliver the company's signature product on time, and (seemingly) by management that isn't investing in this property (physical facility or staff enablement).

McDonald's knows that there are people out there (like our team) who LOVE the whole McDonald's experience. Why don't they simply provide service to meet our expectations? The result just might be a swelling of our ranks. Who wouldn't want more raving fans?

Images: The McChronicles

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Whitney Point, NY Handles It

The Whitney Point, NY McDonald's (store #23622) sits alongside Interstate 81, a major north-south highway that serves the Upstate region. The first reaction is, "this is one of THOSE McDonald's" (spoken in a slightly-snobby tone), the kind that is attached to a convenience store. They just have a lower-class feeling when compared to a stand-alone McDonald's (limited seating, riff-raff bleeding in from the beer/cigarette/gas crowd, limited menu? - not sure about that one).

So, we walk in with a bit of an attitude only to find that there are about 20 football fans in line ahead of us (on their way to a big game). Great! Now we're set up for a sub-optimized experience AND we're going to have to wait forever to receive it. Right?

Au contraire! This feisty little restaurant lined us up and proceeded to whittle us down in short order. No, it wasn't the fastest, and, no, it wasn't "special" in any way, but it really got the job done. Each order was assigned an order number and, when it was ready, a crew member shouted out the number. This flowed smoothly and felt better than the silent killer - The McShuffle.

We were reminded that "something is better than nothing". We really had a hankerin' for McDonald's in a place where maybe a full-blown store wouldn't work. This Express Mart McDonald's was right where we needed it, and delivered just fine.

Great job Whitney Point!

Image: The McChronicles

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

McDonald's Coupons

One of us dragged this coupon sheet (it appeared in our local paper) into The McChronicles Central Command the other day. Stuck it on the wall.

Another McChronicler said that several had been brought in already - or were presented to us by friends. So, people are aware of the coupons.

We know that coupons are a great tool to drive awareness, temporarily increase traffic/revenue (at reduced profitability), and segment the market (targeting certain regions, demographics, etc.). And we (here at The McChronicles) don't know anything about the effectiveness of McDonald's coupon program versus their goals/needs.

But how come we aren't interested in using them?

After some thought, here it is: the "buy one get one" format forces us to have to get something we don't want in order to save money. You see, we all have quite varied tastes. One of us wants a Big Mac, the other wants some chicken thing, and then there's the hamburger purist. Etc., etc. Unless we are hosting a focus group or some other "gang" of people, they just don't work for us.

Maybe we're not the target.

Image: The McChronicles

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and McDonald's - Aftermath

The McChronicles has been receiving reports from a McDonald's owner who has been volunteering to assist those affected by Hurricane Katrina. See an earlier posting on Katrina and McDonald's.

First, let's learn a little about the person:

  • "I check your site (McChronicles) every so often because I’m in the second generation owner/operator program"
  • "I just returned from Gulfport, Mississippi, where I was helping the stores down there with a major staffing crisis, post Katrina."

And here are their comments on the storm's aftermath:

  • " I think people who do not live in the affected areas are beginning to forget that people down there still need help. It will be years before they recover."

And here are some of their comments regarding McDonald's and the storm's aftermath:

  • "You can imagine with all the construction workers and relief workers they are very busy, and the fact that they have very few employees (their workforce was decimated by people just leaving or receiving money from FEMA) they can’t even open their lobbies some days. "
  • "For two months they’ve (McDonald's) been flying people in from all over the country who have volunteered their time, to work in the stores. The goal here is to take care of the 'McFamily.' "

The McChronicles was even sent some very unique and special images of one McDonald's restaurant that suffered extreme damage. On that topic, "I was told that this store had just had a very expensive reimage and had been open for 6 hours before the storm hit. Bad luck." Here are a few of the pictures sent to The McChronicles.

  • a full view of the annihilation
  • the golden arches
  • open-air dining room
  • congested drive-thru

The McChronicles is proud of McDonald's for showing such compassion for their colleagues and their community. And we wish all those affected by the event a speedy recovery.

Top Image: Flick'r, posted by starmud

Other Images: Submitted by reader

McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

McChronicles in Aruba

Okay - well our SHIRT made it.

Here is the globe-trotting Jan-Willem sporting The McChronicles sport polo, complete with our designer McChronicles logo. No word on whether or not he was wearing The McChronicles thong. Let's keep that a secret.

Contributed Image: Jan-Willem
McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.

Ashlee Simpson Visits McDonald's

Our good friends at FastFoodWeblog have an interesting post of an alleged entertainment TV story on Ashlee Simpson visiting a Canadian McDonald's in the wee hours of the morning. At least that's what it seems to be - we can never really be sure in this digital media age.

The person in the video sure seems to be a bit strange-acting. We won't attempt to guess why. The things that the McDonald's crew has to put up with!

You can check it out at
FastFoodWeblog. While there, say "Hi" to Jan-Willem, and tell him The McChronicles sent you.

Image: FastFoodWeblog

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

To Improve McDonald's Customer Satisfaction ...

The McChronicles received this comment to a posting today, "As a Manager for quite sometime now, I really believe that we are not given the best resources to give 100 percent total customer satisfaction as we once did. The ops managers are more concerned about labor costs than service times and quality of a customers visit. "

As consumers, and as people who are very interested in seeing McDonald's attain greatness, we wonder what could be done to empower the crew to deliver great customer satisfaction. What do you crew members out there think? Remember, the company needs to make a profit, it couldn't exist otherwise, so keep your suggestions practical.

Let us know what your expertise tells you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

McDonald's Monopoly Game Concludes

Here's the official McChronicles Monopoly game board on the wall of McChronicles Central Command.

Let the record note that we won nothing but a drink. And that was after our over-enthusiastic team spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and calories seeking gratification.

As you can see by our game board, some of us believed in putting only ONE game piece on each space, while others among us wanted to put every piece collected onto the board. If we had put every piece we collected onto the board, it would have been massive (should have).

Our favorite part of the game was being approached in a dining room by a woman who whipped out her piece-laden board and offered to trade pieces with us. Cool! She must have sensed our zeal. We asked her for an interview but she would have none of that. She just wanted the Viper (with chances of winning = 1 in 17,836,429,305).

It was fun.

Image: The McChronicles

The McChronicles Has Mail

You may remember when The McChronicles filed the comment with Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Our issue was, they have no McDonald's!

Well, we received a reply. Their letter was nice, and they promised they'd look into it. The Concessions Assistant Manager might be contacting us soon!

The great thing is that they have a working system for dealing with comments. Hats off to the Atlanta airport team. The McChronicles hopes to enjoy a McDonald's meal there soon.

Images: The McChronicles

Friday, November 04, 2005

McDonald's Gift Card

The McChronicles has been experimenting with/using the McDonald's gift card lately. We are all finding it easy to use - though the occasional new McDonald's crew member isn't too sure how to process it. According to the company's website, "McDonald's Cards are currently available in limited test markets."

In a previous experience/post, we had some difficulties with a transaction and an uncertainty as to how our card was debited. So, we used the toll-free number on our receipt to check the card's balance. The automated teller process was quick and easy, and we found that our balance was exactly proper.

So, why would a person want to tie up their money and purchase a card that can only be used at McDonald's? For the same reason that
debit cards are used, and more. Though debit cards have their drawbacks, these small cash amount cards are excellent for use as gifts and for making sure the money is used for food.

Our experience buying, using, and verifying the McDonald's gift card was excellent. Used properly, this card is an excellent tool.

Image: McChronicles