Thursday, March 26, 2009

McDonald's: The Worldwide Phenomenon

For a food chain serving nearly 47 million customers daily, being both creative and profitable may prove a bit hard, or at least many people would think.

McDonald's, though, proves that by employing creativity, tweaking menus and slogans, refurnishing locations, and providing cheap food to millions of customers, a company even this big can turn a profit when times are tough.

With over 31,000 locations and 400,000 employees worldwide, McDonald's has grown both in good times and bad.

True, it may not be my first choice, but oftentimes I always end up going at least to one McDonald's in every country I visit. Sometimes it is because I am hungry; sometimes to escape the rain or, conversely, acrid weather; but usually it is because of my sheer curiosity: indeed, just what will there be on a menu this time around?! In Sweden, surprisingly enough, where there seems to be a paucity of Mexicans, there was a taco burger (which was also both very affordable and tasty). In Japan, there are both teriyaki and shrimp (ebi) burgers; in Korea - bugogi burgers; in Thailand, the McThai chain has Thai-style coffee available; and in Israel there are both kosher and non-kosher establishments, with the former being more pricey, though more ubiquitous and better located (unsurprisingly). And they serve amazing pita burgers, too.

In Belarus and Iceland, the Big & Tasty is advertised just like its U.S. counterpart, yet it is actually big (indeed, about twice the size of the U.S. version) and much tastier (I swear it's some special sauce they use).

Moreover, in Europe, the quarter-pounder is available, but its name is tweaked: it is called the McRoyal, owing to the metric system.

And in Russia, McDonald's offers amazing breakfasts--quite a variety for a country having just discovered McDonald's less than 20 years ago. This expansive variety is also kind of hard to fathom when recalling the monotony of things in the days of Russia's communist past: oftentimes restaurants would have just a few items on their menus, and even many of those scarce items were unavailable upon inquiry. Today, Russia's McDonald's hash browns are the freshest and best I've tasted anywhere, which is surprising, because at least in neighboring Belarus I know that the potatoes McDonald's uses for their hash browns are imported from the Netherlands. Yes, Belarus may be the world's number one potato consumer per capita, but apparently the quality of Belarus's potatoes leaves much to be desired, at least when it comes to McDonald's standards.

I can go on and on.

My point isn't to extol the virtues of McDonald's, for I have no incentive to do so: I've never worked there, although its global headquarters in Naperville, Illinois, are located just 50 miles from my home.

However, McDonald's does seem to offer a good all-around deal for its consumers: quite recently, more upgrades and renovations have made way for a more ambient atmosphere with music, free wi-fi (or, in some countries, stationary computers), an open-late or 24-7 attitude, drive-thru options, and food at fairly low prices. Luckily--and very belatedly--healthier options such as salads have started appearing, too.

It is quite an interesting food chain that keenly caters to local tastes while maintaining a global outlook.

And at times of a global economic slowdown, establishments such as this look only to benefit from penny-pinched consumers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was fascinated with McDonald's abroad too while on my round the world trip! In Hawaii they have a SPAM breakfast meal with white rice and soy sauce. In Thailand they shrimp patties. Have pics on my blog.