McDonald’s, the world’s biggest fast food franchise, has always been a trendsetter and an industry leader. Credited with introducing and defining the system on which all fast food franchises operate, the brand with the Golden Arches has become an institution, nearly worldwide.
Recently, McDonald’s started serving selected breakfast items all day long, some 24 hours at specific locations. Franchisees weren’t exactly overjoyed with this edict, but customers have responded positively, making brinner a popular option under the Arches.
Now the company is testing a step further along that path – breakfast Happy Meals. On some levels, it’s amazing the idea took this long to come to fruition. Parents have, for years, been frustrated by kids who can’t get what they expect at McDonald’s when it comes to breakfast. But slap the Happy Meal packaging around it and solve a world of culinary clashes.
Now, at least via a pilot program in Oklahoma, McDonald’s is taking a step in that direction. The move is just one aspect of new CEO Steve Easterbrook’s campaign to transform the company into a “modern, progressive” burger operation. McDonald’s has, in the past, conceded a failure to keep up with consumer trends and changing tastes.
While critics have been slow to congratulate McDonald’s on the all-day breakfast decision, sales have been up in a consumer market that is increasingly hostile to fast food in all its forms, but especially greasy “junk food” options. Americans may love burgers and fries in a brown bag, but Americans are increasingly choosing other options. McDonald’s has been working hard to reverse that trend. To date, they have managed to slow it down, but stopping the train altogether may be more than even the powerful Mickey D’s can manage.
But if past success and failure is any indication, trying to Go Healthy is not a winning strategy for McDonald’s. Every time they try the effort falls flat. From “lean” burgers in past decades to salads in cups and breakfast oatmeal, the “healthier” options have either been ignored or proven not to be healthier after all.
Convenience and consistency at a low price – that’s what McDonald’s patrons look for, and that’s the direction the company should move when attempting to win back former customers and increase their brand loyalty going forward. Breakfast all day was a good first step. Breakfast Happy Meals is an idea that probably should have happened a long time ago.
Elie Hirschfeld is a real estate developer in NYC.