The lines can be blurred when determining a true “culture” change vs. a change in business practices. Take McDonald’s (please) as an example ~ can they really pull this off? Fruit and veggies with a Happy Meal?

"do you smell a trap?"

“do you smell a trap?”

How could you possibly bet against the marketing machine that is McDonald’s, the same place that now offers Cafe’ Latte and Oatmeal? As reported in the Wall Street Journal (9/27, Julie Jargon), McDonald’s plans to have fruits, veggies, and salads replace french fries as an option in Happy Meals implemented in 20 markets (that comprise [you guessed it] 85% of sales) by the year 2020.

Nutritional information and an emphasis on healthy eating (again, this is McDonald’s) will be included on the packaging. Water, milk, or juice will be offered with Happy Meals (we may need a name change after this) instead of soft drinks. Up is down, right is wrong, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!…what’s going on here?

Is this truly an attempt at a culture change??? Or, would a more jaded eye guess this is a conscious business decision to appear a more thoughtful, friendlier fast-food giant?

  • Fact – McDonald’s is smart enough to respond to the world around them, i.e. they felt pressure; Corporate Accountability International is among those who have proposed healthy changes to McDonald’s (and others). Even if McDonald’s officially rejects the overtures (as they did), their Mommas didn’t raise no dummies -they responded.  There is certainly a wealth of Goodwill to be gained here, it seems to be the smart move to at least attempt such a shift in corporate modus operandi.
  • Another possibility? McDonald’s will change the core being of their culture…fruits and veggies are just the start; soybean burgers wrapped in lettuce are in the near horizon. The Hamburglar is out, the Tofu Kid is in.

But wait, the buying public knows full well that fruits & veggies are a healthier option. We buy and eat fast food because we want to buy and eat fast food. If I’m going to McDonald’s, it’s not to educate my children on the benefits of healthy food – it’s a convenience, period. In that case, it’s nice to have the option of healthier foods, but…have you ever tasted McDonald’s french fries?

McDonald’s is not built to carry this out – you can respond to your critics, but at some point you will ultimately respond to your customer. You can bet that reduced revenue will usurp any health benefits provided by rabbit food.

Time will tell – McDonald’s has scheduled performance checks scheduled at 3, 5, and 8-year benchmarks, the results of which will be monitored by a 3rd party. The results will be reviewed by a 3rd party organization, but I don’t put much water in this being a long-term change…my sources tell me Mayor McCheese has the committee in his back pocket.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this onethis one, or even this one….go ahead, I’ll wait.