What is McDonald’s doing?
I don’t like it.
Yesterday, USA Today reported that McDonald’s is continuing its midlife-crisis-engendered effort to become Starbucks. I should have said something earlier. It started with the specialty coffees. Then someone revamped a few locations in Florida. And now look!
It’s like that woman who has been undergoing plastic surgery to increase her resemblance to a cat. At first, it’s just a nose job. But then you turn around half a decade later, and someone’s meowing and replacing all the uncomfortable fiberglass seating with tasteful leather benches and “muted oranges, yellows, and even subtle greens!”
Do they have any idea how wrong this is?
When I walk into a McDonald’s, I like to feel that I am on the inside of a hostile video-game spaceship, designed in committee by the 1990s. I want to feel acute discomfort if I sit down. This has the effect of reminding me that You Do Not Go To McDonald’s To Sit Down, Unless You Have A Family Member Who Wants To Play In The Ball Pit. You go to McDonald’s to get something with enough calories to power a squirrel for a week and to get out of there before the homeless guy lingering in the booth on the end tries to communicate any revelations to you.
They want McDonald’s to be a place where people “want to linger” and “bring their families” and “attract specialty sandwich customers.” That doesn’t sound like McDonald’s to me. McDonald’s is where you go to get hassled, bewildered and a McFlurry. Where are we going to go for that now? Burger King? I can’t go to Burger King! I’ve been making a lot of progress since accidentally watching one of their commercials a decade ago. Now I am able to leave the house occasionally, utter simple words and trust other humans. Does McDonald’s want me to undo all that?
Besides, I don’t want McDonald’s to turn into a cheap knock-off Starbucks. That’s why Dunkin’ Donuts exists.
Maybe they’re right, and people will show up in droves and pay premiums for ambience. But I’m not convinced. Who are all these people that McDonald’s imagines are just waiting in the wings, muttering to themselves, “Gee, I’d go to McDonald’s, if it weren’t for the atmosphere.” There’s a phrase for that hostile, often smelly atmosphere. That phrase is, “Hey, you’re at a McDonald’s!”
If you wanted to go to Starbucks, you should go to Starbucks, except that Starbucks is going through a midlife crisis of its own where it’s trying to turn into a Bob Rauschenberg painting, or something.