In 1940, two brothers named Dick and Mac McDonald opened a BBQ restaurant in San Bernardino, California. It operated for 8 years as a drive-in with car-hop service until they temporarily shut down the business in September of 1948.
Three months later, in December (1948), the brothers reopened with a new direction and plan. You may even say it was a pivot. Called McDonald’s Famous Hamburgers, they proudly sold 15 cent hamburgers in their new self service, drive-in restaurant. They cut down the menu to only include hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips and pie.
In 1949, potato chips were taken off the menu and replaced with french fries (good call). They also introduced the triple thick milkshake, made using a multi-mixer, which indirectly became the most valuable new menu item of all.
In 1954, Ray Kroc, a multi-mixer salesmen at the time, traveled from Illinois to San Bernardino to fulfill an unusually large order of his product. That’s when Ray met the McDonald brothers for the first time and learned about their milkshakes, burgers, and fries. Amazed by the efficiency of their operation and quality of their products, Ray thought this was a scaleable business with the potential for a franchise.
In 1955, Ray opened his first McDonalds on April 15th in Des Moines, Illinois. Before the 50’s came to a close, McDonalds had 100 locations around the United States of America.
McDonalds has a long, rich history and this is where it all started. Believe it or not, McDonalds didn’t even have seating in its restaurants until 1962. The first location with indoor seating was in Denver, Colorado.
Over time, the franchise continued to grow and introduce new menu items. Most notably are the Big Mac in 1968, Egg McMuffin in 1975 and Happy Meal in 1979. Each of these items marked a significant milestone in McDonalds climb to the top of the fast food industry. The introduction of their signature burger, a breakfast sandwich and a product designed for children helped drive more traffic and sales to their growing global locations. These three helped build the fast food chain into the multi-national burger empire it is today, currently with over 34,000 locations. But what will keep it growing?
If you ask us, there are two recent events in the McDonalds Timeline that we believe are aiding that sustained growth.
1) On May 5, 2009, McDonalds expanded upon one of their original menu items, coffee, by adding the McCafe line of products to every store in the United States. The new line of beverages included cappuccinos, mochas and lattes. Last week, we wrote about the relationship between coffee shops and free WiFi, and a recent article in Forbes indicates that coffee is a huge part of the McDonalds future.
McFact: Years before the national launch across America, the McCafe brand built its name overseas. In 2004, McCafes were the largest coffee shop brand in New Zealand and Australia.
2) In January 2010, McDonalds formed a strategic partnership with AT&T to provide free WiFi to customers in 28,000 locations globally.
McFact: According to a recent study conducted by Open Signal, the WiFi available in McDonalds is faster than Tim Horton’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, Target, Lowes and Best Buy. Read the full report here.
First and foremost, any major business decision made by a franchise, especially one the size of McDonalds, is driven by the bottom line. We looked up McDonalds on MarketWatch to see if there was a relationship between the introduction of these two new offerings and their annual revenue.
Whether the correlation between those fiscal results and McD’s coffee/WiFi initiatives are directly tied together or purely coincidental is a decision we’ll leave to you. Since 2004, however, those two years happened to be the best performing when it comes down to the numbers.
From the get-go, McDonalds was founded on the principle of quick service. Fast food, right? It was important for them to not only serve their customers in a speedy fashion, but also get them in and out as quickly as possible. According to an infographic by Dashburst on the psychology of colors, the red and yellow colors used by McDonalds may create a sense of urgency among diners and increase turnover speed.
Given that core principle, it’s amazing to see how McDonalds has changed over time and is now encouraging customers to stay longer by providing free WiFi. The McDonalds “Plan To Win” listed in their company profile details three priorities for their continued global growth:
1) Optimizing our menu
2) Modernizing the customer experience
3) Broadening accessibility to Brand McDonald’s within the framework of our Plan.
As a brand, it’s clear that McDonalds has a strong understanding of what the modern customer wants. Free WiFi is a great way for them accomplish their #2 and #3 goals, and coffee shops may need to start worrying about McDonalds as an actual threat, especially if they don’t offer WiFi. While the perceived quality of their coffee may not be as high as more trendy, smaller shops, their competitive pricing and variety of specialty beverages do appeal to the masses.
One way or another, it’s refreshing to see a major chain with a focus on customer satisfaction embrace and adapt to what their customers actually want in 2014. At SocialSign.in, we’re helping franchises, coffee shops and physical businesses of all shapes and sizes leverage their WiFi network to accomplish their goals and build their brand.