Sunday, December 21, 2008

McDonald's Egg Nog Shake

Like the Shamrock Shake, McDonald's Egg Nog Shake is a seasonal treat with a limited availability.

The McChronicles has discussed the Egg Nog Shake before, with regards to spotty availability. Last evening, while others were migrating en masse to the malls, The McChronicles navigated HEAVY holiday traffic to experience the 2008 Egg Nog product.

Availability: we pulled into our closest local McDonald's (no "Egg Nog Shake" promo on the exterior) and requested the product. No problem, it was available and pushed across the counter in minutes.

Quality: The Egg Nog Shake was quick, easy, cool, and clean - almost everything we are promised - and hope for. The McChronicles took a sip and detected a peculiar flavor - something a bit "chemically" that clearly rang out and put a bit of a damper on the experience.

Maybe it was just us, or maybe it was the store, or maybe it is the 2008 recipe. We don't know. But The McChronicles WILL head out today for a resample at a different McDonald's. More later.

The McChronicles: a b;og about, nmot affiliated with, McDonald's.
Image: jeromes

Saturday, December 13, 2008

O.C. Register's Nancy Luna Investigates McDonald's Farm & Factories

Nancy Luna, good friend of The McChronicles, fast food maven blogger, and reporter for Orange County California's O.C. Register, just released a two-part series that explores one-each of the farms and factories responsible for McDonald's foods. We just finished reviewing the stories and slide shows - and The McChronicles loves it! Great job, Nancy.

In Part 1, "Fresh Buns: How Does McDonald's Get Them?", Nancy visits Brea, California-based Fresh Start Bakeries, and witnesses the entire bun manufacturing process. That's Nancy, all suited up, in the top image.

This tour of the company's Ontario, CA facility, was led by Plant Manager, Bob Mitchell. Bob's new $22-million facility cranks out 14.4 million buns per week! Nancy was joined by visiting nutritionists and they saw it all.

One segment of the tour was led by McDonald's head of U.S. Supply Chain Management, Todd Bacon. Quoting from Nancy's report, "Bacon, who holds a doctorate in "meat science," discussed the strict controls and guidelines McDonald's places on vendors and suppliers. Rules apply for just about any kind of scenario along the food chain — from how to treat a sick broiler chicken to requiring hot buns to pass through metal detectors." Good stuff.

This report includes a very interesting slide show (pix snapped by Nancy). It is worth the read. You'll even grab an awesome trivia point: How many sesame seeds adorn a sesame seed bun? The answer is in the slide show.


In Part 2 of the two-part series, titled, McDonald's: Let-tuce Assure You of Quality, Nancy visits lettuce supplier Taylor Farms, in California's Salinas Valley. She opens her story with, "I will never look at a McDonald's salad the same way again."

Nancy is no stranger to food safety and related health issues. As a reporter, she has covered this beat for years. She has a keen eye for the issue. So, impressing her is quite a feat. Nancy reports, "Taylor's safety reputation is considered to be the "gold standard" of the Salinas Valley with its plant subject to 62 audits a year."

According to Nancy, "We saw everything from the hearty green leaf lettuces used in Angus burgers to delicate, red oaks found in the chain's entree salads."

Nancy was joined by other industry professionals on this tour and shared this:

Mary Barbour, a Los Angeles dietitian and tour participant, said she was impressed by the level of care taken "at every stage" of the growing and packing process. She also noted that the spring mix varieties mirrored selections used in salads found at top, fine-dining restaurants.

"The next time I'm craving a gourmet salad, I'll go to McDonalds knowing the quality of care that is placed in every serving," she told me after the tour.

For more on Nancy's detailed experience at the farm, read the second part of her story. A slide show accompanies this segment, too.

The McChronicles really appreciates the effort that Nancy invested to capture and deliver this excellent two-part story. We also appreciate McDonald's increasingly open and transparent stance regarding sharing information with the public. Name another fast food purveyor that even comes close to this level of openness.

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

McDonalds.com/QualityFood

If you are interested in the quality of McDonald's food (everyone SHOULD be interested in the quality of the food they eat), then do spend 5 minutes at www.mcdonalds.com/qualityfood.

This website offers up all sorts of info about various products. For example, The McChronicles drilled down into the chicken sandwich and was presented with a Q&A session that informed us, "First, we fry the breaded all white meat chicken strips in our Canola oil blend. While the chicken is cooking, the flour tortilla is being heated. " There are TEN pages of this stuff, just for chicken!

There was much more, and even deeper drilling available for full nutritional information.

Check it out. This stuff is important to know.

The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Image: screen grab from www.mcdonalds.com.qualityfood.

Gibson, PA McDonald's

The McChronicles was in Gibson, Pennsylvania today (or were we in New Milford? - both cities are listed on the receipt). Anyway, this regular McDonald's store is right off US Interstate Highway 81 in northeast PA.

store #: 28453
city: Gibson, Pennsylvania
order:

  • McDouble $1.00
  • Small Fries $1.00
  • Water free (in cup)

The store is handy (easy access to the interstate) and pretty "standard looking" as approached from the parking lot. As we entered, it was obvious that this store was quite clean and friendly.

Let's start with friendly. We were greeted by the smiling "Mercedes" who had several counter customers backed up (waiting for their food to arrive). Was she distressed? Rude? No! She was very pleasant. As the orders arrived she got them to all the right people and everyone was happy. Mercedes is a great counter person.

After our order was ready we turned to the condiment counter. To our surprise, the area was a wreck. It didn't make sense - since everything else was so tidy it just didn't fit.

As we took our seat, we noticed that the dining area was decorated in a very crisp, neat style. It felt very warm and inviting. Everything was tidy and clean - even the salt and pepper shakers were all lined up properly. This place was really looking good. Impressive!

As we ate we kept thinking about that messy condiment area. It was so out of place.

After a fast meal (about 5 minutes) The McChronicles headed out. We passed by the condiment area and ... well, let the picture speak for itself. Apparently we arrived immediately AFTER a messy customer. Somebody had been busy cleaning while we ate. The whole area was sparkling! It makes sense.

Great job Gibson!

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

McDonald's McDouble: Part 2 (more info - slightly)

The McChronicles couldn't let it sit. Fueled by the several comments at our previous posting on The McDouble (thanks everyone!), we went to the next McDonald's down the road (New Hartford, NY: store #825) to see how they rolled out the McDouble. It wasn't expected to be a big difference since they are both owned by the same man.

Anyway, we noted that everything, including the price, was the same, the McDouble is on the dollar menu. What we DID notice was that this McDouble was wrapped in slightly different but equally mysterious paper (top image), like yesterday's McDouble from the other store (bottom image).

The McChronicles guesses that these stores just don't have the proper wrappers yet.

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

McDouble! McDonald's Newest Product.

The McChronicles dropped by McDonald's today for lunch and detected a change to the Dollar Menu.

Missing was the double cheeseburger, replacing it was the new McDouble. The McDouble is a double cheeseburger with only one slice of cheese. The McChronicles was told by the crew at the Clinton, NY McDonald's (store #2499) that the McDouble was launched yesterday, December 1st.

According to speculation on bloggingstocks, "One possibility is that McDonald's will attempt to market the new burger as healthier, eliminating one slice of cheese hacks off 15% of the fat and 11% of the calories." The blog also says, "Analysts estimate that the McStingy will cost about six cents less to make -- combined with the company's plan to raise the price to about the dollar mark, it could spell increased profitability for the chain."

Immediately after this experience, a friend of The McChronicles, Neal, called and reported that he, too, was surprised by the menu tweak.

Neal (a 20-year old college student) added these points:
  • I never realized a double cheeseburger had TWO slices of cheese to begin with
  • I don't detect any big difference with only one slice of cheese
  • I don't think $0.19 is a lot for one slice of cheese
The McChronicles WAS surprised at the price effect that the one slice of cheese had. The McChronicles also wonders if the McDouble (pictured here) is in a temporary wrapper or if this is the final design.

Please COMMENT with your McDouble experience.

FOLLOW UP NOTE: See the McChronicles' subsequent posting on The McDouble.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! McDonald's-style

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is where The McChronicles found Ronald McDonald today.

According to the show's announcers, the Ronald McDonald balloon weighs 375 pounds and requires 55 people to keep it on the right path.

The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Image: daylife.com

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON from The McChronicles!!!

Let's kick off this holiday season with a spirited celebration of McDonald's!
Here is what you get when you mix ElfYourself with McDonald's.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The McChronicles CAN'T WAIT to hear your COMMENTS ...

The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Video: ElfYourself and JibJab.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

McDonald's Monopoly Game

The McChronicles just wrapped up another losing season of the McDonald's Monopoly game. The best we've ever done is to score some free fries.

Here is our unsuccessful game board and a McDonald's sign with an unfortunate typo on it. We would think that there would be a little quality control on the signs for a major promo program (not that WE haven't typo'd before ourselves).

Maybe next year!

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quarter Pounder: The Store! (part 2)

The McChronicles recently reported on a very focused store called QUARTER POUNDER. This very unique McDonald's has only two items on the menu: quarter pounder with cheese and double quarter pounder with cheese (you can also buy fries and beverages). There are 2 QUARTER POUNDERs, both in Tokyo.

Readers wanted to know WHAT? and WHY? So, The McChronicles investigated. Here is what we learned.

According to a plugged-in McDonald's insider, "This is creative buzz marketing. The CEO of McDonald's Japan is passionate about innovation, new thinking and breakthrough marketing."

The McChronicles' source added that McDonald's:
  • is about to launch the quarter pounder as a McDonald's branded product (currently quarter pounders are not sold in Japan). This is pre launch buzz. The burger and the brand will soon be reunited.
  • wanted to create a buzz around the burger and its name beforehand the product was launched.
  • had two McDonald's restaurants in key shopping streets in Tokyo which are about to close due to their leases ending. So, for their final days they created the "Quarter Pounder Store".
It is very interesting to note that these stores are unique restaurants that have no McDonald's branding. McDonald's built up customer interest for pedestrians by putting up boarding with peep holes so people could see some of the activity going on inside. Then, when they finally pulled the boarding down there was a store selling nothing but quarter pounders; still with no McDonald's branding, even on the fry box that came with the meals.

The result was huge lines - and the quarter pounder became "the thing to try".

The McChronicles is told that the making of the link between this new hamburger and McDonald's will occur at the official launch.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

McDonald's Supports People In Need

"... McDonald's has always had an understanding that charity is a good way to build good will. For the most part, it comports itself with dignity, very rarely discussing its charitable endeavors, most notably Ronald McDonald House."
This is a quote from Bob Garfield, advertising critic and editor-at-large with Advertising Age. More on this subject can be read in an interesting article appearing in QSR Magazine.The article goes on to cite McDonald's for promoting diversity, awarding millions in minority scholarships, sponsoring workshops to help minorities enter college, and for their Ronald McDonald House.

In this article, Cristina Alfaro, communications manager with McDonald's USA, says, "Through the collective efforts of our chapters, we've awarded $19 million in scholarship funds to 14,000 Hispanic students. We've also established a national scholarship program that awards $100,000 apiece to four Hispanic students."

This kind of goodwill makes The McChronicles want to run out and buy lunch!

The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Image: QSR Magazine article.

Attention McNugget Lovers

Today, McDonald’s launched www.nuggnuts.com , an online fan community dedicated to honoring the devoted fans of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. The site launched this morning to pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the popular menu item. Fans will have the opportunity to show why they deserve a coveted spot in the Nuggnuts Hall of Fame, learn the official McNuggets pledge, and purchase exclusive Nuggnuts apparel.

Two of the five individuals www.Nuggnuts.com is featuring are:

· Kevin Byers, an expert juggler and self-styled “Nuggler”, Kevin once juggled three Chicken McNuggets (after eating the 4th), a record 112 times late one night. He also attempted creating the world’s tallest McNugget tower.

· Adam Cater is the founder of “I Love Chicken McNuggets®” on Facebook. “I am the biggest McNuggets fan and I was trying to find everyone else in the world who also loves them like myself. I’d love to talk all day about my love for McNuggets. When I’m not eating McNuggets, I feel sad and empty inside.”


Comments anyone?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quarter Pounder: The Store!

Apparently there is a McDonald's restaurant in Tokyo, Japan called QUARTER POUNDER that sells only two items:
  1. Quarter Pounder with cheese
  2. Double Quarter Pounder with cheese
The first image is a grab from the QUARTER POUNDER store website.

The second image is a grab from broccolicity.com website, where The McChronicles first heard of this interesting concept.

From what we're able to gather, if you're in Tokyo, head to Omotesando Shibuya East and you'll be close (there's a map on the website).

It also appears that some beverages are also available, as are fries, though they do not appear on the menu that is on the website (though they do appear in an image there). Another hint at that is the fact that the store sells the Quarter Pounder as a "set" meal. Makes sense.

There is more info available at the inventorspot blog.



The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Images:
(a follow-up to this story appears here.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McDonald's International Media Days 2008: Review

The McChronicles was offered a tremendous opportunity to experience McDonald's International Media Days 2008. What a better way to bring interesting information to the "customers" who are the very heart of our mission: "Chronicling the McDonald's Brand Experience From The Customers' Point Of View." We seized the chance and did our best to both experience the event and share it all with you in seven separate postings (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven).

The single most frequent question we've been asked is, "Well, what did you learn?" Then, that question is retracted in fear that The McChronicles will go on and on and never stop talking (and we could). The question is rephrased as, "What is the ONE THING you learned?"

The answer is simple. The McChronicles departed knowing that McDonald's is absolutely NOT the monolithic corporate behemoth that some accuse it of being. We are totally convinced that McDonald's is a wonderful collection of talented, capable, passionate, and fun people who care very much about their customers' experiences, their company, and their place in society.

During this event we interviewed, spoke with, and listened to people from a very wide range of roles and capacities, including: CEO, Vice President of Social Responsibility, Facility Engineers, Equipment Engineers, Chief Chef, Vice President of Beverage Strategy, Senior Media Relations Directors and Managers, Administrative Assistants, Crew, Store Managers, and more. We are convinced that such a large group of people simply can't fake sincerity, integrity, and passion in a way that we couldn't recognize. They're the real deal, and they ARE McDonald's.

The McChronicles can also share that these people are never satisfied. They are constantly seeking ways to improve their brand, to improve their business, and to delight their customers and employees. We fully expect McDonald's to accelerate their growth in product and concept development, leading to further enhancements of customer satisfaction.

This team knows they are not perfect - and they appreciate hearing both the good and the bad. The McChronicles was delighted to witness eager interest when we discussed issues and problems. Lest you think we've become a shill for McDonald's, rest assured that The McChronicles will continue to comment on opportunities for improvement - and we will continue calling out the good things, too. Mainly because we are a customer, and we experience McDonald's from OUR side of the counter. Now we know that McDonald's appreciates the feedback as well, and is eager to consider the customers' opinions. It's also clear that they aim to improve because of them.

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

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 3, Part 2)

This posting will wrap up The McChronicles experience at McDonald's International Media Days 2008. It was an incredibly rich 3 days of information, accessibility to people, and insight. Here is how it concluded.

After we departed McDonald's advertising agency, DDB, where we learned of the two latest corporate initiatives, we headed to the McDonald's 50th Anniversary Restaurant located at 600 N. Clark St., in Chicago. It is a pretty special restaurant on one hand as it is relatively large, super tidy, two-storied, double-drive-thru'd, McCafe'd, etc. - yet, on the other hand, it seems pretty normal with all the usual offerings, decor, etc. In other words, it was an exciting place in which to feel at home.

Our first move was to continue the official rollout of the new "1 minute to move it" (one minute to move it) campaign by joining a bunch of local elementary school children as they "moved" their minds, bodies, and souls by taking part in various activities (exercise, art, puzzles, games, challenges, etc.). Joining them was U.S. Olympic gold medal winner Shawn Johnson (who spoke at the formal announcement ceremony at DDB). She is the perfect age to get the playfulness of the kids, to be full of curiosity herself, and to also understand the ramifications of "moving it" for 1 minute. Of course, her fame is also very valuable for the program. Anyway, she was fully immersed in the activities - no "star" issues here - and certainly appeared to enjoy it all.


The McChronicles thinks these rollout events are very valuable and would like to see them continue throughout 2009 (versus ending quickly). These examples and opportunities are a very helpful method of reminding us all that it is important to enrich ourselves. The question is ... is this McDonald's JOB to pay for this? We all know that it is NICE to be reminded about these valuable activities, but who owns the responsibility?


Even if McDonald's isn't responsible, it still may be a good way to keep us all visiting them. Interesting.

Our next move was to enjoy lunch. After sampling so many new and exotic McDonald's specialties during the week, The McChronicles settled into familiar territory by ordering a double cheeseburger. After the recent double cheeseburger value meal issue, we were surprised to learn that this special McDonald's has NO dollar value meal menu - and to pay $2.15 for the sandwich. That's a lot more than the $1.00 The McChronicles pays back home.








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

Images: The McChronicles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 3, Part 1)

This morning The McChronicles was at the offices of DDB, one of McDonald's advertising agencies, for two very special announcements - and for a very special surprise.

McDonald's Chief Marketing Officer, Mary Dillon
, introduced these items this morning:
  • a McDonald's tie-in to the Upcoming Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa movie, complete with a new slogan

  • new global McDonald's packaging - with an emphasis on the product

MADAGASCAR: Escape 2 Africa



Beyond the obvious technique of linking a (hopefully) popular movie with their product for promotional purposes, this move plans to use the movie's characters, as well as special events and information to help children move beyond pure physical well-being and add more fulfillment to their lives. At the heart of this effort is a new slogan: 1 minute to move it (one minute to move it).

The "move it" part addresses moving your body and getting some exercise, and also includes moving your mind, your spirit, and your sense of self. Children (and, presumably all of us) are encouraged to take a minute whenever we need it and move our brains, work on a puzzle, a project, or a hobby. We are encouraged to take 1 minute to contemplate what we think is fun, fulfilling, and rewarding. Here is a link to the McDonald's One Minute To Move It introductory video. The McChronicles thinks it is a very interesting concept and hopes it works.

Interestingly, the "I'm Lovin' It" campaign will not disappear.

The McChronicles asked Mary Dillon if the "1 Minute To Move It" (one minute to move it) rollout-type activities will continue throughout 2009 or if the activity will simply settle into ads and slogans (we didn't word it the way it sounds here - we were not snarky about it). Mary replied, "We are considering it." The McChronicles feels that seeing McDonald's actually "move it" throughout the campaign would be a great example for our children and hopes to see a long-term implementation of such activities.

The coolest part of this announcement: McDonald's brought in gold medal Olympian Shawn Johnson to encourage kids to take 1 minute to move it. That's her in the top picture - moving it as only she can while encouraging kids to follow her example. Very cool! PS: Shawn was very gracious and fun - just as we hoped she would be. She is truly a delight and an excellent choice for such a role.

PACKAGING UPDATE

According to Mary Dillon (image: as she delivered the info - standing in front of some over-sized examples of the new look), "This is the biggest packaging initiative in the history of our brand." That's big news for sure! She echoed a theme The McChronicles has heard all week when she said, "This packaging is all about 'simple, easy enjoyment' ".

The company cited the four major goals of this packaging:

  • move from "fast food" to "good food fast"
  • simple, easy enjoyment
  • build a strong relationship with customers
  • build a strong, modern brand identity
Examples of the packaging, as they will appear in various global areas, appear below. The actual materials of the packaging were previously upgraded to a more ecological mix, so the only change here is the graphics. The McChronicles likes the graphics as they feel crisp and fun. In addition, nutritional information is easy to find quickly. Also, look for a switch away from "lifestyle" imagery and for a much stronger emphasis on the actual product, its ingredients, and its nutritional information. The McChronicles thinks this looks good while moving health-related issues to the forefront.

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

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 2, Part 3)

Day 2 of McDonald's International Media Days was FULL of interesting information and insights. In the afternoon The McChronicles was able to meet with Chef Dan Coudreaut, Corporate Chef, USA, in his test kitchen.

Dan was accompanied by several vendor partners who (along with several other vendors) share in the development, testing, and inventiveness. Chef Dan stressed that creating new McDonald's menu items is a team effort. Some of the vendors were from Cargill (oils) and Sargento (cheeses). Chef Dan also made it clear that he enjoys "the discovery process" and that he is comfortable when he, occasionally, "doesn't know what he doesn't know".
Chef Dan says he often begins with input or direction from his teammates in Marketing. After all, it is they who usually know what customers want, or which ingredients and product families contribute to profitability, sales, or optimal inventory utilization.
Chef Dan took the opportunity to demonstrate a product development process, based on the Snack Wrap platform (check out the brief video clips of Chef Dan in action). He shared a basic design system, then introduced a huge table of potential ingredients. Wow! What choices.

The McChronicles asked Chef Dan if he had any "failures" that surprised him. He said he really thought the taco + quesadilla (tacodilla) concept would resonate with people in the USA. According to Chef Dan, "I loved it, but it tanked."

That's OK, Chef Dan. You've created plenty of winners.

video
video
The McChronicles: a blog about, not affiliated with, McDonald's.
Images & Videos: The McChronicles.

McRib Update: A SPECIAL REPORT from The McChronicles While At McDonald's International Media Days 2008

The McChronicles receives numerous requests for information related to The McRib. People ask:


  • Where is the McRib?

  • Why is it back?

  • Where did it go?

  • Why does it come and go?

  • What the ...?

  • and, occasionally, "There IS a McRib?"

The McChronicles promised to seek the answers - and for this risky assignment we went straight to the top. Today The McChronicles held a face-to-face discussion with McDonald's Debra McDaniel, the Senior Director of U.S. Menu Management (pictured just seconds before she dealt with the McRib issue). This makes the second time that we consulted with Debra on the McRib in two days. Here is what she had to say:


  • "When we keep the McRib on the menu, orders eventually start falling off."


  • Bringing the McRib on and off the market is "the best way to deliver it in consistent high quality" under these conditions.


  • "Another example of a product that McDonald's 'pulses' on and off the market is the Shamrock Shake." (Deb came up with that one after thinking about the question overnight - and it is a great analogy.)

So, there you have it McRib fans, straight from the source. In essence, when the McRib is allowed to remain on the menu, orders drop and the product is not sustainable. When the product comes and goes, we go wild for it and buy it like it is going out of style (which it is - until Debra brings it back).


Know one thing, Debra is a passionate McDonald's employee who truly loves her products and how they please us all. The McChronicles has seen this firsthand. She's not jerking us around - in fact, it seems like we are messing with her. The McChronicles concludes that we have met the enemy and it is us. To resolve the McRib issue we need to consistently order more McRib sandwiches. Deb would like nothing better than to make it a permanent fixture on her menu.

This has been a SPECIAL REPORT from The McChronicles.



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

Images: iRyanHD (poster), Debra McDaniel (The McChronicles)

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 2, Part 2)

Next up on Day 2 of McDonald's International Media Days 2008 was Senior Director, U.S. Restaurant Design, Max Carmona who outlined the company's Green Building Strategy. And, if you think this is just about the building, you will be surprised.

But, speaking of buildings ... did you know?:

  • there are 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S.
  • there are 31,000 McDonald's restaurants in the world.
  • the concept of a "Green Restaurant" has been under development for years and is now already rolled out in the south side of Chicago.
  • Green Restaurants are under construction in France, Brazil, and Canada.

The bottom line of Max's assignment is to create a functional and environmentally progressive facility that "satisfies both the customers' perception and the crew's satisfaction".

Max outlined critical elements of his program, grouping them into four major categories:

  • water reduction
  • energy reduction
  • materials of construction
  • social equity

Then, Max delivered The McChronicles to the actual Green Restaurant, on the corner of 42nd and Ashland on Chicago's South Side (a community known as "Back Of The Yards"). There we were met by Doug Kimball (pictured) who provided an extremely detailed tour of this living laboratory. The tour started with two drawings of the facility, a site overview and a building detail.

The site and building exterior feature innovations including: LED signage that consumes tons less energy,permeable paving that allows rainwater to soak into the water table versus swamping the public drainage system, a cistern that collects storm water used to water the native vegetation - both on the ground and on the roof, skylights, and a heat recovery system. Trust The McChronicles - there is lots more.

Doug then headed indoors where he handed The McChronicles over to John Rockwell who pointed out features such as: low-flow plumbing features saving water per flush, LED lighting and a computerized system that measures natural light and adjusts artificial lighting accordingly, multiple recycling stations, and building materials (tables, chairs, divider walls, decorations, etc.) made from recycled materials such as milk and detergent containers, ceramic floor tile made from 40% pre-consumer waste material, and decor made using low-emitting materials.

Honestly, it was difficult to take it all in on the first pass.

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

Images: The McChronicles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 2, Part 1)

The McChronicles enjoyed an excellent Day 2 of McDonald's International Media Days 2008.

This morning started out with a presentation on McDonald's Strategic Beverage Initiative. Speaking was Mr. Lee Renz, Vice President of U.S. National Beverage Strategy (top image). Mr.Lenz stated that it is McDonald's goal to become, "a beverage destination". In addition to the company's carbonated and bottled beverages, and the shakes, coffees, etc., McDonald's is moving into latte's, espressos, frappes, and smoothies. These beverages will come to us from an increasing number of McCafes.

Now, there will be two distinct McCafe strategies. "Globally" a McCafe will include beverages and food - sometimes a restaurant in a restaurant, sometimes (as does already exist in places) a stand-alone. In the USA, a McCafe will be a beverage-only affair and will only be found within a McDonald's restaurant. This is said to be because corporate research strongly indicated that U.S. customers prefer beverage products only versus a beverage and pastry offering.

Renz went on to say:

  • "We are trying to develop a new brand underneath the McCafe umbrella."


  • "We focus on our customers, their desires, and their behavior when they visit us."


  • The goal is that, "all eligible restaurants are able to offer these products". (there are about 12,700 "eligible restaurants" in the U.S.)

The full rollout of the U.S. McCafe project will conclude near the end of 2010 and has already started. Renz added that McDonald's "has tons of great ideas" for the expansion of the project. It seems that this idea has a great chance of florishing beyond the current scheme


Later in the day The McChronicles sampled existing and prototype McCafe beverages. From hot chocolates, to caramel and coffee frappes, to smoothies - this product suite seems to have something for most everyone. The McChronicles does NOT like coffee, yet we found the caramel and coffee frappe very tasty - even with the distinct coffee flavor. Interesting!


The next event began when Bob Langert, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility (bottom image), took the stage. Bob started McDonald's Corporate Responsibility blog - a very meaningful tool for both reaching out to, and opening up to, the world. Do make the link.



Bob took this opportunity to announce the McDonald's 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report (being released later today). You can read the report using the link, so we will stick to Bob's presentation and discussion.


Bob continually emphasized "responsible food" and said, McDonald's wants to go beyond rhetoric and "bring corporate responsibility to life".


The McChronicles wants to thank Bob for taking the more difficult high road and continually making McDonald's activities more transparent while being a part of the team making McDonald's actions increasingly exemplary. For these (and other) efforts, "The Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College has given McDonald's an A+ for the quality of our voluntary reporting on environmental and social issues. We are the only company in the food services sector to receive so high a grade."

The McChronicles' bottom line is, "Chronicling the McDonald's Brand Experience From The Customers' Point Of View", so, as customers, we really appreciate any and all efforts to make both our McDonald's dining experience, as well as our time here on Earth, a more enjoyable, responsible, and sustainable event.

More to come! Stay tuned.


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


Images: The McChronicles.


Monday, October 27, 2008

McDonald's International Media Days 2008 (Day 1, Part 2)

The second part of our first day of McDonald's International Media Days (see part of McDonald's International Media Days 2008) was much less formal and a lot more hands-on. And since it was getting to be about that time, The McChronicles is talking about hands on LUNCH!

Today's lunch was served in McDonald's ultra-top secret "Innovation Center". Seriously, this place has such limited access that many of ther McDonald's staff that accompanied The McChronicles into the facility expressed excitement that THEY were able to get inside. A tour of this detail, with the degree of openness that we experienced was said to be "unprecedented".

Now, while The McChronicles WAS hungry, it was still all about, "Chronicling the McDonald's Brand Experience From The Customers' Point Of View." Here's what we learned (in between bites and while touring the facility):


  1. There are some very tasty new foods in the pipeline.

  2. There are some very tasty foods in existence around the world that aren't in your region.

  3. There are some very sophisticated processes (and equipment) in place - and being put into place - to keep our meals tasty, consistent, and safe.

  4. There are some very cool ideas as to how to make our total experience faster and more accurate/rewarding.

  5. There are some very dedicated professionals working hard behind the scenes to make this all happen for us.

PIPELINE:

A discussion and demonstration and video of experimental equipment led up to the cool new products that were under consideration. While we didn't get to sample any of the "concepts" The McChronicles can report that all sorts of food products are being evaluated, from vegetables, to beverages, to traditional sandwiches made in new ways.


INTERNATIONAL MENU:
The McChronicles dove into a table full of food that can only be found in McDonald's around the world. As loyal readers know, The McChronicles travels extensively, but having such a variety of meals in one room at one time was special, even for this experienced traveller. We enjoyed the (sort of) previously-reported on Shaka Shaka Chicken (it was potato in our report from 2006). This version of the Japanese Shaka Shaka concept is a real winner. The concept is to receive an already tasty piece of chicken in a semi-sealed bag, insert your personal favorite selection of spices, shake it up (shaka shaka) and enjoy it. The McChronicles tried the lemon pepper spice and LOVED it, a lot.


Another of the several awesome regional products is THE CBO. CBO, from France, stands for Chicken, Bacon, Onions. With the proper garnishment, a slice of cheese, and sauce, this sandwich is awesome.

The McChronicles' favorite was the Canadian Angus Burger. All we can say is, Wow! The garlic mayonnaise is just right and adds the perfect flair to the basic large burger. Loyal readers will recognize, by studying the 3 photos of the Angus Burger, that McDonald's is using the "McPamper" concept suggested by The McChronicles in 2005. See the three photos at the top of this post. This sandwich, and others, can be silghtly unwieldy and juicy, and the extra support from the included piece of tissue paper really helps. Thanks, McDonald's.

There were others, but these were our highlights.

PROCESSES:
Fry lovers - occasionally disappointed by fries that are: undersalted, oversalted, undercooked, overcooked, too cold, cooked in less-than-perfect oil? Sure you are. The McChronicles witnessed a new machine called the LOV Fryer (low oil volume) that uses less oil and less energy while frequently filtering the oil (keeping it cleaner), using less oil so the oil can be changed more frequently, while automatically salting the fries with the proper distribution and volume. We sampled the machine's output - best McDonald's fries we ever tasted!

BETTER EXPERIENCE:
McDonald's demonstrated some new software the allows us, the customer, to place our own order (like we do when checking in at an airpoirt, for example) from a very intuitive, simple to use touch-screen menu. It not only is easy to find what you are looking for, change it, go back in mid-order and delete things, etc., but it also presents more choices than the traditional wall-mounted menu has space for. Curmudgeons and traditionalists may not like it, but anyone under 40 has been yearning for such control (and speed) for a long time now. Yeah!

DEDICATED PROFESSIONALS:
The concept of a "McDonald's Engineer" is probably not in most of our heads, but such people do exist - and they are working hard to make our McDonald's experience better. The McChronicles had the opportunity to chat briefly with a few. Truth be told, they are almost geekily into automation, process excellence, pareto charting, focus grouping, video monitoring, and the like. Hey, we don't need them at our parties, we just appreciate the fact that they make our lunches more consistent, safer, and faster. The last photo is one we snapped while in the top secret Innovation Center. Stand down McChronicles legal counsel - we were granted permission for this long-distance shot.

That's it for today. More tomorrow.

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