McDonald’s are unlikely to be the only organisation that offers ‘something for nothing’ to all of its customers. However, McDonald’s are in my opinion the only organisation to be able to offer ‘something for nothing’ to so many people in so many places. In the UK alone, there are now approximately 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants – they are everywhere.

Over the last couple of years, McDonald’s have been executing a huge refurbishment and growth programme in the UK – – creating new jobs, installing new technology – they have transformed the look and feel of the restaurant environment, whilst maintaining the integrity of their product. Whether you love McDonald’s or not, no-one can argue that the result is extremely impressive. Every town or city you drive thru (get it?!) in the UK, you will see the famous Golden Arches in front of you. If you look inside the windows of the restaurants as you pass, you will notice that every table is occupied – every seat is taken. The iconic brand is alive and well in the UK at a time when many famous brands are struggling in equally famous tough economic times.

So what have McDonald done to not only sustain the brand, but to enable it to grow in such a tough environment? Well free Wi-Fi in every restaurant has a lot to do with it. What the management team at McDonald’s understood a long time ago is that the end to end customer experience is paramount to the sustainability of their organisation. It is not enough to keep producing ‘Big Macs’ day after day and expect the consumer to keep coming back time after time. If the Big Mac is served in a shabby restaurant, it may not appear to taste quite as good. If they could not serve the Big Mac with a fizzy drink that is healthier than the traditional soft drink, Mums and Dads may not want to bring their children to the local ‘drive thru’. New menu innovations such as the Fruitizz, and salads have enabled McDonald’s to offer ‘healthy’ eating options alongside their historic burgers. If the restaurant is in a location that is difficult to access – with no parking for example – many customers may not see it as an easy option to visit. And what if customers are not actually that keen on eating McDonald’s food at all? Opening many restaurants 24 hours a day is a start – there are not many places to get a coffee at 3am. The introduction of free Wi-Fi has also attracted a whole new band of McDonald’s followers – even if you do not like the food, you can still enjoy that freshly ground coffee whilst doing some work on your laptop. Dads can bring their children for a ‘happy meal’ whilst keeping up to date on the football scores.

I am writing this blog sitting in the McDonald’s restaurant in Doncaster, Northern England. As my work takes me all over the UK at present, I often seek out the local McDonald’s as the starting point of my day. Not only can I catch up on my emails and prepare for the work, I can do so whilst sipping on a Latte. Sometimes I treat myself to a bacon roll. Three years ago, I would not have done this. Why would I have? McDonald’s was not the kind of place I would have wanted to visit to just have a coffee. The reason I do so now is as follows:

  1. Consistency – I know that every McDonald’s I visit, the experience will be almost exactly the same – yes the accents of the staff may be different, but the look, feel, taste, sound of the product is identical. I can predict what is going to happen, and I like that.
  2. Accessibility – I can find a McDonald’s in every town and city I visit – most of the time they are open 24 hours, and I can always park.
  3. Products – I can get a great coffee and a bacon roll in the morning. I can have porridge if I am feeling healthier. There is something for everyone – even the burger hater!!
  4. Value Add – The fact that I can sit in a nice, clean, consistent environment, whilst drinking a good coffee, whilst getting some work done is greatly appealing – free Wi-Fi is the thing that has won me over – it is the thing that keeps me coming back.

I do not need to be a big fan of the Big Mac to become a loyal customer of McDonald’s. It is the end to end customer experience McDonald’s offers that makes it so compelling. It can now serve a loyal band of business professionals, as well as continuing to wow little people with the toy in their Happy Meal. McDonald’s invested and innovated at the right time – and will be here for many years to come.

Before I finish – let me make a comparison with another brand that ‘used’ to be as popular with business people in the UK……..can you guess which one………

Who remembers the Little Chef? They used to be everywhere too. Every major road in the UK seemed to have a building like the one in this picture serving the infamous Olympic Breakfast. I indulged in one or two of those in the past. Little Chef used to be the place that business people used to meet at the start of a working day. They would have breakfast and a coffee before venturing to their first business meeting.

In 2008, Little Chef did some work with the Michelin Star chef, Heston Blumenthal, in a reality TV show. They were a brand in severe decline, and wanted to reverse their fortunes. The overhaul recommended by Heston included a complete revamp of the environment, and a complete revamp of the menu. The results were impressive:

Unfortunately though, it appears as though it was too little too late. In January 2012, the company announced further store closures amid continuing losses – . Like McDonald’s, they had identified that the experience needed to improve. Unlike McDonald’s, the strength and reach of the brand does not seem to have given it the time to innovate quickly enough. Why would I go in to a Little Chef (if I could find one), when there is a McDonald’s just around the corner?

We all know McDonald’s. We have almost all visited one. McDonald’s have provided us all with compelling reasons to keep visiting. A consistent experience, that is easily accessible, with a great variety of products, and free value add services. How many organisations can claim to offer a customer experience like that?

What do you think? As always, your comments on this or any of my blogs are very welcome.