McDonald’s social media blitz raises questions

01 Oct

For the past few years, McDonald’s Canada has been on a real tear in terms of rebuilding its image. It started with a $1 billion renovation project that not only elevated the restaurants from dives to respectable places where one can grab a snack or meal, it raised the bar for other chains as well. The company has also been adding so-called premium items such as Angus burgers and chicken sandwiches for the past few years. Put it all together and the difference between a typical McDonald’s restaurant and most competing chains is now night and day.

The moves have been followed with a social media blitz that aims to dispel some of the myths associated with McDonald’s and fast food in general. Most famously, there was the video earlier this summer of executive chef Dan Coudreaut explaining what’s in Big Mac sauce.

The latest addition to the campaign is a video that looks at how the chain’s beef patties are made. As supply chain senior vice-president Jeff Kroll explains, the burgers are pure beef with no chemicals used in the process:

It’s hard to say anything negative about the overall transparency, which is good, but the campaign by McDonald’s Canada does raise some significant questions. Like many companies, McDonald’s Canada is using social media to go straight to the consumer. While many evangelists of the medium think this is great, skipping traditional media means avoiding a whole part of the process, like the follow-up questions asked by knowledgeable skeptics.

One of those might be: Why is this happening now? McDonald’s has had decades to do this sort of thing through traditional media. Is it perhaps because social media allows it to control the message, yet at the same time also appear like it’s being transparent and consumer-friendly?

There are also questions about the process itself, some of which were raised by commenters over on Gizmodo (some of whom might want to consider becoming journalists). As a few comments suggested, do the high standards purported by McDonald’s Canada apply to U.S. operations as well? In that vein, the most important question seems to be: Why is the chain’s Canadian operation leading this transparency charge and not the U.S. parent? Do the American operations indeed operate with lower standards?

On a trip through Ohio this weekend, I stopped at a McDonald’s drive-thru and picked up a McChicken meal, with fries and a drink. I had to ask the cashier if she had made a mistake, because it only cost $3.10, or less than half the price in Canada. Fast-food is another area where Canadians inexplicably get the shaft. There are inevitably volume issues and differing costs of supplies, but there is a limit. I’d really like McDonald’s Canada to explain that huge price discrepancy and whether food quality standards really do come into play.


Posted by on October 1, 2012 in internet, mcdonald's


6 Responses to McDonald’s social media blitz raises questions

  1. Lipstick on a Pig

    October 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    McDonald’s McCafe renovation has only put lipstick on a pig, although lipstick might improve the flavour and texture of a McRib.

    In my local McD’s, there is seldom more than one of the three cash registers open, even at lunch and dinner. They favour the drive-through. Only when the line stretches to the door do they open one more register. Numerous times I’ve seen people walk in, look at the line, and walk out.

    The inside is like a pig-sty with overflowing garbage bins and dirty tables. It seems the staff feels yapping about their weekend is more important than cleaning the restaurant, even when business is slow. The area where you get drinks, straws, catchup, etc. is a disaster. They play gawdawful muzak, probably to discourage the teens from hanging out, but the teens don’t care as they are talking too loud to hear the muzak. Their PayPass system doesn’t work, hasn’t for months, yet they let new customers, who don’t know any better, keep trying. Why not fix it, remove it, or at least put an f’ing sign on it saying it’s broken?

    Try to contact McD’s to file a complaint. At their Contact page your only options are to call them, send postal mail, or fax them. Fax? Why not a telegram? No online form, no email. I guess they expect you to use Twitter or Facebook. Twitter is too short and Facebook doesn’t allow for anonymity when it may be required.

    Yes, I did file a complaint for everything above. No change.

    Yes, I am appalled at how Canadians get shafted on pricing compared to Americans. But look at any other category and it’s the same — appliances, electronics, clothing. McD’s is no different than any American company who extract high prices from Canadians to subsidize American pricing.

    I still eat at McD’s, but only as a last resort. Every other fast food vendor does it better than McD’s. Wendys, A&W, Subway, Burger King, Arby’s, Tim Hortons, etc. All run much better than my local McD’s. YMMV.

    McD’s can be as socially active as they want. Until their restaurants are inviting, I don’t care what videos they produce. It’s my absolute last resort for fast food.

    • Zoro

      October 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

      What do you expect? You eat at a crap-hole with lousy service and garbage everywhere. You obviously have no standards and aren’t willing to pay a little more for decent whole food. McD’s knows this and knows you’ll keep coming, so why should they change. The problem isn’t with McD’s for being crap, the problem is with you for eating there.

      • Lipstick

        October 3, 2012 at 9:42 am

        As I said, “I still eat at McD’s, but only as a LAST RESORT.” When I’m on the run and need to grab a bite, the McD’s is the closest place. I wish that wasn’t the case. Most of the time I do take out.

        And since I’m sure you wouldn’t make personal attacks under the guise of anonymity, I’m also sure you meant “people” when you said, “you.” Yes, people who eat at any restaurant that operates like my McD’s are the problem. If we all stopped eating there, they MIGHT figure out what the problem is. But people will not change.

        McD’s and I have a symbiotic relationship. I eat there only when I have to and they clean up only when they have to to avoid being shut down by the health department. :-P

        Feel free to reply on the issue, but do avoid further personal attacks or you’re just a troll.

      • Chris C.

        October 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

        Actually, I would have to agree with Zoro on this one: if you don’t like it, don’t go. Lack of cleanliness in my experience is usually only an exception, heck I always see someone washing the floor in one section or another.

        Secondly, and it would seem this is quite representative of its public face at least in my province, you will notice there are seemingly no employees older that 20, and you’ll be lucky if the manager is more than 25. in other words, it’s geared towards young folks that like to come in and shove it in as fast as possible. Very seldom will you see adults, except for the occasional ‘birthday party’. And as Pete says, it was (and to a large extent still is) geared towards fast consumption and exit. Just look at the tables and general decor: it’s aseptic and uncomfortable.

        The problem I see with McDonald’s is its cluelessness about the evolution of society and if Pete is right, it seems to me a bit too little, too late, especially if your food expensive and boring, like it has become. Even my kids don’t go there anymore, there is much more choice nowadays, McDonald’s is not a must go experience like it was when it first came out; it’s a place of last resort.

        How about some tandoori chicken, shish taouk or a good souvlaki instead? This is the real competion to McDonald’s. Bottom line, society has changed. McDonald’s hasn’t.

  2. Marc Venot

    October 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Their coffee is now correct and they fill my thermos for the price of a large.
    The closest place has many screens showing a sport channel, and I saw one client installed with a laptop for hours with its cord plugged onto the power of the wall. The crew only asked him to sit on an individual chair. But this place was before with a nice mural and kid entertainment, not a bland and dark decor inspired by coffee.

  3. Chris C.

    October 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Ah, Price Gouging in Canada… The eternal issue… You could say the same of Walmart and other chains that have parent companies in the US…

    Is it the small market, the lack of competition or price fixing? Unfortunately we will probably never know, as it is probably a mix of all… You could also ask why it is more expensive to ship a book to Toronto from Montreal as it is to ship it to Los Angeles!!!

    In this case, however, I would be tempted to say that your reasoning seems to imply that the reason that price is lower in the US is… That they are NOT using the same quality ingredients in the US as here in Canada!!!

    But is it REALLY better? My gut certainly tells me NO, and I always end up paying for my temerity whenever the craving hits me, which is fortunately less and less frequent since their prices have gone up (you can get a wholesome full course meal at most local eateries for about the same price as a trio these days).


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