Ronald McDonald in black-rimmed glasses and cargo pants? Not
exactly the image that comes to mind when thinking of McDonald's,
America's fast-food restaurant icon. McDonald's is betting on their new
concept for coffee, the McCafe, to help increase sales - but will it go
the way of the McPizza?
In covering McCafe's debut in the US, reporters most often played up
McCafe's international success, with 300 coffeehouses in 17
The media often commented on the lace curtains, comfy couches and fine
china on which patrons will savor their McPastries and sip their
The concept was often positioned as an attempt to shore up lagging sales
due to a saturated fast-food market and beef scares across Europe. But
is the company building on their strong brand, or simply grasping at
Journalists pointed out other McDonald's promising ventures such as a
diner prototype in Kokomo, IN, and the Boston Market chain. Said
McDonald's VP Rem Langan, 'Breakfast is an area of growth that continues
to be strong for us and this will also assist in helping to build our
business in all-day snacks' (National Post, May 1). Other media noted
past attempts to increase diversity into McDonald's which have failed.
'If McCafe fails to produce high-quality products, McDonald's will have
another flop to add to the junk heap, now littered with failed products
like McPizza and Arch Deluxe sandwiches,' wrote The Seattle Times (April
Many media also wondered if Americans would give up their Venti
Frappacinos for a McCappucino. In the eyes of the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer (May 1), it seemed obvious the market at which
McDonald's was aiming - Starbucks, the 'fast food of coffeehouses.' The
prices of coffees, gourmet teas, fruit smoothies, pastries and scones at
McCafe were often pointed out.
Journalists made the distinction less often that these prices are lower
than those of Starbucks.
Hardcore coffee fans seemed mostly skeptical on McCafe's future. 'I
think they'll have image and ambience problems. (Gourmet coffee is) just
not McDonald's image,' said one Starbucks customer (Associated Press,
May 2). Regardless of image, some journalists felt McCafe's imported
Italian coffee just didn't differ enough from the usual fare at the
'If the java offered at Tuesday's press briefing is any indication,
Starbucks has nothing to worry about when it comes to those of us who
mainline caffeine,' said journalist Marcella Kreiter (UPI, May 1).
Analysts agreed that image might be a problem. 'Will the choice of the
McCafe name help or hurt? Does the company expect snooty gourmet coffee
drinkers to flock to something called McCafe? There are times I'm just
not in a McDonald's mood,' wondered Motley Fool.com columnist Chris
Rugaber (Yahoo News, April 30). McDonald's does, however, have
experience in the gourmet foods industry, with stakes in two UK
specialty sandwich and coffeehouses, Pret-a-Manger and Aroma. Because of
these concepts, other analysts were more optimistic. 'If it takes off,
it could be a great new thing for McDonald's.
It's a good complement to their existing restaurants,' said one analyst
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2).
Current speculation notwithstanding, the lack of fanfare surrounding the
opening may be an indication that McDonald's is taking baby steps with
the first test of their concept cafe. Perhaps after the public has had
time to experience McCafe, the media will make a more solid conclusion
on the success or failure of the McVenture.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found