Has Old McDonald’s Broken Out Of Its Financial Slump?

“Can we go to Old McDonald’s? Please?”

The first time my son asked that question it took me a couple of seconds to realize that he didn’t mean a farm, he meant McDonald’s. Mickey D’s. The quintessential fast food place.

But until recently, “old” did sort of apply to McDonald’s. Sales were sliding amidst a sense the venerable chain was falling behind its more aggressive, innovative competitors. The result was a major shake-up last fall at the Golden Arches that accelerated change, some of which was in the works.

I gotta say, I like what Ronald’s doing with the place. My wife and I recently gave in and stopped at McDonald’s during a road trip. I was first impressed by the contemporary décor featuring lots of brushed steel and stone. This inviting atmosphere is a 180-degree change from the old garish colors and uncomfortable plastic seats that were designed to appeal to kids and boost turnover by discouraging teens and others from hanging out in the restaurant.

Gone were the old backlit menu boards, replaced by flat screen video monitors that displayed both our choices and tantalizing food-porn videos – sausage patties being flipped in slow motion… mmmmm.

Of course, the proof is in food, and McDonald’s seems to be back on its game in that department. The all-day breakfast menu that debuted in late 2015 is wildly popular. The McCafe coffee drinks rival Starbucks.

Those successes are the result of an increased effort to identify customer wants and meet them. Milliennials, for example, prefer snack foods to big burgers. A streamlined product development process allows the company to quickly act on such findings and bring new items to market in a matter of months, instead of years.

McDonald’s new approach seems to be working, based on early returns. The fast food giant broke out of its slump with a surprisingly good 4th quarter of 2015, attributed, in part, to the all-day breakfast menu. Buzz around the company remains positive.

So, it seems you can teach an old dog new tricks. E-I-E-I-O

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