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.