McDonald’s was founded in 1940 by Richard and Maurice McDonald, with the first restaurant being a BBQ stall in San Bernardino, California.
This stall was eventually sold to businessman Ray Kroc, who opened the first McDonald’s franchise in 1955 and made the company what it is today.
Indeed, McDonald’s now has close to 39,000 restaurants in 119 countries. While it remains a highly successful franchise, shifting consumer preferences pose the most serious challenge to the company moving forward.
Strong brand recognition
Ronald McDonald and the Golden Arches clearly differentiate the chain from competitors and ensure that it remains top-of-mind for consumers.
McDonald’s never claims their food is high quality.
However, the consistency of their food is a major strength considering their global presence.
The company works with a range of suppliers to ensure that a Big Mac in Los Angeles tastes the same as one in Paris.
For consumers, this makes McDonald’s a familiar and known quantity.
When Ray Kroc purchased the company, he was impressed by the fast service of the original restaurant and this remains a core characteristic of every restaurant today.
Customers can now order their meals using self-serve kiosks or an app for pickup and delivery.
To engage with younger, mobile consumers, McDonald’s’ has also invested in tech company Plexure to create targeted loyalty programs.
One of McDonald’s greatest strengths is also a weakness under certain circumstances.
With little to no influence over daily operations, these franchises have the potential to dilute brand equity.
Low employee satisfaction
This is particularly evident in emerging economies where the rights of employees are rapidly changing.
The company has been subject to several public employee strikes around minimum wage, causing reputational harm.
Dependency on western markets
Despite its global presence, McDonald’s is dependent on western markets for revenue generation.
In fact, the USA accounts for 35% of revenue alone.
The reasons for this dependency are complex, but in part stem from an inability to penetrate lucrative Asian markets such as China, Singapore, Malaysia, and India.
Brand image rebuild
McDonald’s brand equity is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, many associate its restaurants with fast service, dependable food, and child-oriented fun.
One successful example is the development of a vegetarian burger for the Finland market.
Investment in McCafe
On average, restaurants featuring a McCafe do 15% more sales than those without.
Incorporating a McCafe in every restaurant is likely to be a worthwhile strategy.
The same could also be said of developing the McCafe menu to be more aligned with successful coffee brands such as Starbucks.
Health trends and competition
Changing consumer preferences around unhealthy fast food have the potential to erode the competitive advantage of McDonald’s.
While the company has revitalized its menu, it may struggle to compete with established players in the healthy food segment.
Because of this trend, McDonald’s has experienced increased regulatory pressure and associated costs.
McDonald’s has suffered brand damage in countries where its products are not a good fit.
For example, the company was embroiled in a scandal after it sold food in Muslim countries using non-halal ingredients.
The company generates vast amounts of waste as a result of the way it packages food.
Plastic straws have been banned in some countries, but more needs to be done to minimize waste from another packaging – particularly in countries where environmental laws are less stringent.
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