From Coffee to Create Your Taste, Social Media Helps Bring Change to the McDonald’s Table.

Russ Horner    June 14, 2016

Most of us who went to McDonald’s as kids remember our first taste of their delicious French fries and that special sauce packed Big Mac. We also likely remember as we became adults, just how bad their coffee was (as was the coffee at many other restaurants). Well, McDonald’s listened to its customers over the years and introduced a new coffee and most recently a new McCafe restaurant concept. A winner for customers, the McDonald’s business and for social media.

The power of social media can and does encourage positive change for consumers and corporations. It certainly has had an effect at McDonald’s not only on what they offer their customers, but how they operate and how they plan for the future. The new coffee and McCafe concept has definitely been a huge winner for McDonald’s.  “Coffee really lends itself to the social environment,” says Catherine Crozier McDonald’s McCafe grown platform lead. Social media has also helped prompt change in other areas of this QSR giant.

Transparency. A recent Nielson Study showed that in a socially connected world, people trust recommendations from other people the most when it comes to trusted forms of advertising. This result forced marketers to be more transparent with consumers which led to a very successful “Our Food. Your Questions.” 2012 campaign. “ The initial success of the program is a real testament to the power of creating meaningful and open dialogue with customers,” said Joel Yashinsky, chief marketing officer at McDonald’s Canada. “This level of transparency has resonated with our guests and has created the type of conversation we want to have with them about our food. We’re excited to see how far it can go.” It is a valuable social media campaign for McDonald’s that will continue to function as a tremendous resource. “With ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’, we have a lot more to do.”says current McDonald’s CMO Anoinette Benoit.

Choice. When it comes to quick service restaurants, consumers want quality ingredients, choice, convenience and good service. “Customers are looking for hospitality. They are looking for a personal experience.” says John Betts, Chief Executive Officer of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada. In addition, social media has been bursting with complaints over the years about QSR companies not offering enough healthy choices. To help address all of this, McDonald’s launched “Create Your Taste” which features touch-screen kiosks that allow customers to choose from over 30 ingredients to build their own sandwich. “What guests expected in the ’60s and ’70s is different than what they’re expecting today,” says Victor Rocca, McDonald’s regional vice-president overseeing Ontario. “We want to evolve and to continue to meet the needs of our guests.” This also equates to table service, more quality ingredients, and more healthy choices .”Offering more whole foods is never a bad idea,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Living a Real Life with Real Food author Beth Warren.

Supply Chain, Sustainability and the Future. Social media has also been all over sustainability and the environment. There has also been ongoing social chatter about antibiotics and hormones in farm animals. McDonald’s has been working with their suppliers to address some of these consumer and social concerns. These discussions have led to some major decisions on the how the chain does their work and the products they serve. For example, McDonald’s will transition to using free-run eggs exclusively in its restaurants which will have a dramatic affect on the entire foodservice industry. Marion Gross, senior vice-president of the North American supply chain at McDonald’s, said the company is working with its existing egg suppliers to convert housing systems for hens. Gross said she thinks the change will be “truly meaningful” to customers. “They know how big we are, and the impact we can make on the industry,” Gross said.

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Working with ranchers, feedlots, beef processors and a patty plant, McDonalds also just completed a two year pilot project aimed at sourcing sustainable beef for its restaurants. It was required that all participants be certified by a 3rd party showing that they meet operate in accordance with industry standards in areas of environmental responsibility, animal health, food and worker safety, community responsibility and innovation. Anne Wasko who is a rancher from Saskatchewan and who participated in the pilot project said, ““Consumers want to feel good about their eating. They want to know what they’re eating,” she said. “If we want to continue producing food and selling beef, if consumers are asking these questions then we most certainly have to provide the answers.” This is a bang on example of how a company is working with its suppliers to address social issues and create lasting change.

Lessons for Others

Companies must listen and learn from what is presented to them on social media. The comments, questions, experiences and opinions shared by people are not made up but are in fact a call to action for the companies to make change.

Utilizing long term suppliers to help develop production or product changes is a must. A hamburger might taste good but it will taste better knowing it is from sustainably, socially and industry accepted standards of production. Consumers are social media driven and will continue to watch, listen and write!

Organization: McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited
Industry: Quick Service Restaurant
Name of Organization Contact: John Betts, CEO

Authored by: Russ Horner

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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