Founded in 1940, McDonald’s is one of the most recognized brands in the world. Serving approximately 69 million people daily in over 100 countries from more than 36,000 restaurants, McDonald’s is one of the leading fast-food establishments. Like most fast-food places, McDonald’s has had to find new ways to keep up with competition in order to remain a leading brand. As a result, the company has had to make big changes throughout the years. For many companies, this is not unusual. Consumer tastes change, and in order for companies to maintain top status, they have to meet consumer expectations.
In the earlier 1960s, McDonald’s introduced its Ronald McDonald character, a clown complete with its own fantasy world, McDonaldland. Other characters included the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and the Fry Kids. As a result, the franchise seemed most focused on catering to children. This focus continued for decades as years later in 1979, it introduced the Happy Meal. The Happy Meal gave kids the option of either a hamburger or cheeseburger, French fries, cookies, a soft drink, and a toy. Through the years, other alternatives became available such as chicken nuggets, milk, apples, and yogurt. While the Happy Meal remains a staple for the franchise, it has had to make other improvements to attract more of an adult clientele.
Over time, the franchise has phased out Ronald McDonald, making him more of a charity figure visiting hospitals and attending fundraisers and other events. Gone are the bright yellow and red plastic booths, replaced by more modern seating lines. Today, most McDonald’s restaurants have undergone complete redesigns with more of a business appeal, offering outlets for cell phones and laptops, softer lighting, and free Wi-Fi. With these changes, McDonald’s hopes to attract consumers willing to use the restaurants for business purposes such as conducting work or meetings.
Along with the redesign, McDonald’s has made many changes to its menu over the years. As companies such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts experienced high sales for their gourmet coffee, McDonald’s introduced its McCafe line, which includes items such as iced coffee, hot chocolate, and lattes to keep up with the competition and get its customers to associate it as a meeting place.
Also, McDonald’s has experienced high pressure to introduce healthier options as the global population seeks better eating habits and competition offers fresher ingredients and lower fat alternatives. Therefore, McDonald’s consistently changes its menu to keep up with the latest trends. It offers more salads, grilled chicken, fruit, yogurt, and other healthy alternatives than it ever did before. It also promised to phase out chicken raised with antibiotics and milk containing artificial growth hormones. Each year, it seems McDonald’s tries to add more healthy options.
While healthy options are important to the general public, unique food options in general still draw consumers. This is why McDonald’s experiments with new items all the time, even if they are not the healthiest. They’ve tried introducing mozzarella sticks, several versions of the Big Mac, McRib sandwiches, and even kale at certain locations. While some of its new items remain, they don’t always work. However, it is likely McDonald’s will consistently try new things each year in the hopes of keeping faithful customers happy and attract new customers.
According to Statista, McDonald’s ranks number one for the most valuable fast food brand in the world at an estimated brand value of $88.65 billion. Therefore, with all of its constant changes, McDonald’s must be doing something right!