Ronald McDonald’s Unhappy Meals

by on June 22, 2015 · 7 comments

in Culture, Health, History, Life Events

Ronald McDonald photo

By Jill Richardson / OtherWords

McDonald’s is floundering.

There’s no other way to say it. The global fast food chain has experienced declining U.S. sales for well over a year now. But why?

I’d love to gloat that Americans have finally caught on that the Golden Arches peddles terrible food, but that might not be the case.

Theories for the slump abound.

Some believe the menu is too confusing, slowing down service. Others say that consumers are drifting toward fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Panera, even if their food costs more. And Consumer Reports notes that McDonald’s has the worst-tasting burger compared to 20 competitors.

Even McDonald’s itself doesn’t seem to be sure. The company has introduced a Create Your Taste option, allowing consumers to customize their burgers. It promised to stop serving chicken raised with some antibiotics. In Southern California, the chain even tried serving kale.

McKale? No, just no.

Photo by jordanfischer

Fortune magazine concluded that “A growing segment of restaurant goers are choosing ‘fresh and healthy’ over ‘fast and convenient,’ and McDonald’s is having trouble convincing consumers that it’s both. Or even can be both.”

Which brings me to the chain’s latest move: hiring former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as its head of communications.

The talking point du jour is that McDonald’s wants to build a “modern, progressive burger company.” What does that even mean?

You’ve got to give it to them, though — it at least sounds better than “Please forget about that Supersize Me movie.

McDonald’s didn’t stop with hiring Gibbs, however. The Golden Arches brought on board another corporate superstar, Silvia Lagnado, as its head of marketing. Lagnado has previously worked for Dove, Unilever, and Bacardi.

Clearly, McDonald’s thinks it’s grappling with a marketing problem.

This points to a tactic I learned back in business school: When consumers don’t like your products, you can either make your products better…or simply make your customers think they’re better.

With this move, McDonald’s seems to be taking the latter route.

Articles analyzing the company’s poor sales underscore some reasons why consumers have turned their back on the chain. Instead of adding a few leaves of kale here and there, why not remove the anti-foaming agent in the French fries?

In other words, instead of putting lipstick on a factory-farmed pig, why not switch to serving more ethical foods?

I have no love for the chain, but I hope McDonald’s new marketing gurus guide them toward real change, and not just a new advertising campaign.

Just because billboards and jingles repeatedly tell us we’re “lovin’ it,” that doesn’t make it true. If McDonald’s opts for new slogans instead of making substantial changes, send them a message by buying better food somewhere else.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jettyboy June 23, 2015 at 10:59 am

Why is this mystery? They have shitty food, and rip off their workers. They’re not in OB. Why does the Rag even care about McDonalds? Im pretty sure there are more important issues.


Goatskull June 25, 2015 at 11:21 am

To some degree it IS a mystery. Yeah their food is shitty but it’s the same as it’s always been. Why the sudden disdain from consumers? In big cities there are much more and better options and as burgers have actually become sort of a foodie staple, a more eclectic choice of burgers as well. But why the sudden decline in other areas?


Frank Gormlie June 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Funny kind of response, amigo. So the Rag should only focus on OB issues? OBceans do get out in the world and perhaps some of them go to a McD’s once in awhile when they’re outside the OB Bubble of Cool. Sure, some of us have stopped eating at the place years ago – including myself, but in fact, it was just a few years ago a good mutual friend of ours wrote a post at the OB Rag calling for a boycott of the franchise.


Frank Gormlie June 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm

BTW, did you notice the Ronald McDonald was the Thailand Ronald, with its hands properly placed.


Jettyboy June 24, 2015 at 7:36 am

Of course the Rag should cover news from east of I5.Yea, he’s praying for people to come back and eat his shitty food.


tj June 25, 2015 at 3:45 pm

with what they’re “serving” at Mickey D’s these days… Ray Kroc must be rolling over in his grave.

Just another unfortunate example of corporate/Wall Street Mega-GREED…. run amok. hopefully they’ll be joining Hostess real soon (sans the white knight).



tj June 25, 2015 at 3:49 pm

with what they’re “serving” at Mickey D’s these days… Ray Kroc must be rolling over in his grave.

….is McD’s just another unfortunate example of corporate/Wall Street Mega-GREED run amok?

hopefully they’ll be joining Hostess real soon (sans the white knight)….



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