More ominous news for Big Mac lovers: This year, for the first time since 1970, McDonald’s is closing more locations in the U.S. than it’s opening. The writing is on the wall — Americans want fast-casual dining and healthy meals, and the Golden Arches just doesn’t fit that bill.
At least, not yet. In the most recent issue of The New Yorker, writer Michael Specter examined McDonalds’ attempts to shift the public’s perception of the brand as fast, cheap, and unhealthy toward being all-natural and sustainable, something consumers love these days.
“Society is shifting in a major direction, so guess what — McDonald’s is going to shift, too,” the company’s executive chef and vice-president of culinary innovation, Dan Coudreaut, told Specter. Some changes the company has already begun to implement: replacing margarine with butter to cook items on the grill, and nixing poultry and dairy products treated with antibiotics.
The problem is that McDonald’s is having trouble getting away from the “unhealthy” brand associations that it’s built up over decades, even with all the changes it’s making. Fries will always be fries, and Big Macs will always be Big Macs — if those are still the keystones of McDonald’s menu, it’s going to be hard to convince the public buy into their health-positive pivot. This is compounded by the fact that the company has gotten caught up in the stunt marketing consuming the fast food industry.