A Clown With a Smile Upside Down – McDonald’s Versus Chipotle

With the airport travel delays this week, I was able to conduct my own bit of marketing research. mcdvoice com

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I noticed the customers in line to buy food.

The adjacent options in this one particular area of the food court, according to the overhead signs, were Arbys, Chipotle and McDonald’s. Or rather, there had been three options. Apparently, travelers at BWI had gotten over their infatuation with roast beef because, as you can see in the photograph, that option was now boarded up.

So that left Chipotle and McDonald’s. No matter when I passed by the two food stands during my three-hour delay, I noticed the same situation. The line at Chipotle was long, maybe even too long, while a patron could get almost immediate service at McDonald’s.

Here are three reasons:

1. Product – There was a time when McDonald’s included the word HAMBURGERS on their outdoor signs. No longer. In fact, the burgers that made McDonald’s famous had been deemed this past summer the worst-tasting of all the major U.S burger chains by the readers of Consumer Reports.

So, if you don’t go to McDonald’s for hamburgers, what exactly do you go there for?

Could you just imagine if Starbucks were ranked dead last… for coffee?

Rather than fix the food, the company invested considerable time and effort on developing tie-ins to popular movies and Happy Meals toys. Even now, the company is spending millions of dollars to design and open up sparkling new facilities complete with flat-screen TVs. But the food is still apparently broken.

(Of course, I never understood why McDonald’s feels compelled to include their name under the symbol for the Golden Arches. Apple has been around for a far briefer time than the Golden Arches, and the company seems to be doing just fine without having to remind us that their logo stands for “Apple.”)

USA Today also reported, “McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson finds himself under increasing pressure to turn the burger behemoth around – and soon – as the company reported a 3.7% decline in global same-store sales. That ranks as the company’s worst global same-store sales results in more than a decade. McDonald’s last posted a 3.7% decline in sales at stores open at least one year way back in March, 2003, the company says.”

2. Service – Further, according to USA Today, “For the 20th year in a row, McDonald’s ranks dead last in customer satisfaction in a national survey of patrons of 12 major fast-food chains by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.”

The reason I go to McDonald’s is not for their hamburgers but for their hot fudge sundaes. (With this small, inexpensive treat, I doubt that I am the type of customer McDonald’s is trying to court.)

The last time I went to the airport location of a McDonald’s, the person behind the counter just glared at me. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was bored, irritated and disengaged.

“I’d like a hot fudge sundae, please.”

She shot back, “No ice cream! Next!”

3. Employees – At Chipotle, the employees work as part of a team. A usually successful, busy team at that, and it typically shows in their attitudes as each one down the line performs his or her job with pride and efficiency.

On the other hand, during another recent visit to McDonald’s, I noticed an unusual separation of duties. A cashier took my money, read the number off the receipt to me, and then directed me to “go stand over there until your number is called.” So I did. And waited. Finally, a counter person arrived to fill my order. The cashier then showed her displeasure for the other employee’s tardiness in completing the order.

Needless to say, it was the opposite situation of a meal that was happy. In fact, even a popular clown, encountering that situation, may have had a smile that was upside down.