lather, rinse, rebrand

McDonald's Launches Billion Dollar McMakeover

Posted by Barry Silverstein on May 11, 2011 12:30 PM

The Big Mac Daddy of fast food is getting a different look — so different that regular customers may not recognize it anymore.

By 2015, some 14,000 McDonald's locations in the United States will get a miraculous McMakeover, turning them into modern, contemporary eateries with a homey inviting appearance.

Out with the old — the dominant yellows and reds, the garish arch, the fiberglass tables and the antiseptic interior. In with the new — more subtle signage, muted colors, just the suggestion of an arch, wooden tables, leather club chairs arranged in conversation areas — even flat-screen televisions and Wi-Fi.

If this sounds suspiciously like a Starbucksian transition, it should.

McDonald's has looked to Starbucks, also upgrading its stores to mark its 40th anniversary, as a model for a quick-serve eatery that can offer speedy service but also encourage customers to linger over a cup of coffee. The fast food chain is also well aware that the success of restaurants such as Panera Bread is built around different types of food offerings served in a more upscale setting.

It's a refurbishment that will cost upwards of $1 billion, a big bet by McDonald's that it can not just retain its current customers, but appeal to a whole new generation of foodies.

Max Carmona, senior director of U.S. restaurant design for McDonald's, tells USA Today that the redesign is all about simplicity. It represents a mix of ideas from updated McDonald's locations in Europe and Australia, but it also incorporates the thinking of upscale restaurants, and even brands known for clean design, like Apple.

"We're not trying to be Apple," said Carmona, "but we can be inspired by them. When you're inside an Apple store, you almost feel like you're inside an iPad — and you want to stay there. We want people to walk into McDonald's and have the same feeling."

This is more than a redesign, though. It's a strategic move by McDonald's to stay well ahead of its direct competition (like Burger King and Wendy's) and more effectively compete with fast food restaurants that are a little further up the food chain, such as Chipotle and Panera Bread.

Along with the modern decor changes, which have been in the works since 2006 and were introduced in New York in 2009, will come ever-expanding menu of food and beverage items, pushing the envelope beyond the burger-and-fries staples. The old school way of thinking — get the customer in and out as fast as you can — is being replaced with the concept of engaging the customer to sit for a spell.

But will sprucing up its decor spell an increase in sales? McDonald's thinks so. Several stores in Tampa, Florida that have been renovated are already experiencing an increase in sales in the double digits.

So next time you walk into a McDonald's, don't be surprised if it's a whole new experience. You might even want to stay a while.

[Photo and video via USA Today]


Roger Rebetsky United States says:

Wonderful, but unless they can change the smell, a change to fancier furniture is not going to make anyone want to stick around.

May 12, 2011 08:48 AM #

Joseph United States says:

There's nothing at all wrong in keeping with the times. With an overhauled look, McDonald's will be able to cater more effectively to a newer and younger demographic. It's the right move.

May 12, 2011 09:45 AM #

HurriedNotes United States says:

McDonald's will never appeal to foodies. They serve junk.

May 12, 2011 04:25 PM #

DuXx U.A.E. says:

Brands like Apple and Chiptole don't compare. Apple is known for it's innovative product design and trend setting lifestyle- anyone with a pair of white headphones is considered cool. Chiptole is a 'healthier' option (could still be nutrionally higher in value) that caters again to a young and niche market- the packaging and interior design is fab and the large glass screens let walker-bys crave for what everyone else is standing in line for.

McDonalds is a whole different ballgame. After Supersize me I don't know understand why anyone that saw the end - the bit where after 4 weeks a normal burger and fries decomposed whilst mcds looked like it was freshly served. Scary!

No rebranding no interior design and definitely no repositioning of who they are and what they stand for is going to ever change the smell, the fact that it's making our kids fat and it's unhealthy! Even their low cal salad dressings are high in sodium and sugars.

Mcdonalds, my advise to you is, be transparent. Don't dress up into something you are not. If you really want to change, a makeover is only on the outside, reconsider your contribution to the children of our world.

Nonetheless, best of luck...

May 13, 2011 03:07 AM #

Mike Medd Hong Kong S.A.R. says:

They can become trendier and hipper but upscale is not the right repositioning descriptor for them. Judging by the photo above, it's not such a drastic change, i.e. they're not trying to appeal to foodies but rather to a market that has become accustomed to better design via Apple, Starbucks etc. They understand that consumer behavior has shifted to a preference for lifestyle brands and they want to be part of that mix. It will be hard to disassociate the smell of their french fries with cheap, fast food though. I'm sure they know that smell is a critical part of their branding.

May 14, 2011 04:24 AM #

kevin duke United States says:

It's pure brand away what they own in order to try to be what you think is cooler.

People can trash McD's all they like, but it's been a tremendously successful brand, around the world, and this is pure stupidity. Give up the ARCHES?  Lord, highly paid execs have approved this. (And some of them will be looking for work after it fails.)

May 14, 2011 11:55 AM #

Comments are closed

elsewhere on brandchannel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
brandcameo2014 Product Placement Awards
Apple loses its crown to a new #1
Coca-ColaIt's the Journey That Matters:
Coca-Cola Opens Up With Story-Based Web Refresh
debateJoin the Debate
Is product placement a waste of money?
Arthur Chinski and Joshua Mizrahi
Model Behavior? Brands Beware
U.S. Legal Changes Impact Use of Brand Ambassadors
paperCorporate Citizenship in Canada
Fresh thinking from Interbrand
Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly

Meet Ford's Resident Futurist
Highlighting the Present—and Future—of Branding in Latin America and Iberia