Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2003 / 28 Kislev, 5764
McDonald's, once America's favorite faux home away from home, where
happy families wolfed down unhealthy food under the beaming gaze of
weird furry creatures and an unfunny clown, has fallen on hard times of
late. Challenged by rival fast food chains, and by salad bars, deli
sandwiches, home cooking, and dare I say it an increase in
discriminating palates, McDonald's has fallen back and regrouped.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, McDonald's is now venturing
into Starbucks territory. This December, in Mountain View, California, a
McDonald's opened a coffee bar inside its restaurant, called of course
McCafe, complete with "comfy chairs, Frank Sinatra on the sound system
and an Italian espresso machine steaming up McLattes."
The first such McCafe opened in Raleigh, South Carolina, but Northern
California is the true test market, according to Matt Lederhausen,
McDonald's president of business development: "You want to find a region
that has the people and the passion and the consumers where you think it
will really work. You certainly have the passion there." Well, I don't
know about that. Personally, I save my passion for doomed relationships,
and generally order my caffeinated beverages with, I'll admit it, a
certain amount of ennui.
And I have to confess, if I'm going to order a latte, it will probably
be from an establishment that doesn't have the lingering aroma of
boiling grease. But that's just me. I do love those McDonald's fries,
but the thought of dipping them in my mocha is not appealing.
Again, I detect an air of desperation around this move. The next thing
you know McDonald's will start making keys, frame your prints, sell cell
phones, rent DVDS, and let you access the Internet, with your order of
If McDonald's truly wants to change its ways, it needs to stop putting
MAC in front of everything.
And it had better watch its back. Starbucks will start offering French
fries, cute little hamburgers, mysterious little deep fried pieces of
chicken, and its version of happy meals. What if they introduce their
own brand of clown? Chuckles Starbucks? It could happen.
Still, I was heartened to discover that McCafe will not be offering its
coffee in tall, venti, and grande, but in small, medium, and large, the
way Mother Nature intended. And McDonald's can avoid selling soft jazz
compilations, and selections from Oprah's book club, well, they just
might be on to something.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Ian Shoales