Watching the Big Dogs

So you are a starting a restaurant. Want innovation? Sometimes you have to study the Big Dogs and ask yourself how you can be a step ahead. How does the biggest dog, McDonalds, always stay at the front of the fast food pack? It is not because they were first or that their food is the best. It is because they combine well known standards with amazing research, innovation and efficiencies that competitors cannot touch.

As seasoned restaurant consultants, even we are impressed by McDonalds’ ability to take the obvious, rebrand it as their own, and make it stand out far and away above and beyond the best competitors in the field.

Take coffee. Numerous coffee chains that have been chasing the behemoth Starbucks for years without success. Then McDonalds decides to literally take over the Starbucks vise grip on coffee with McCafe. Efficiently utilizing a small space, a do-it-yourself approach, a lower price point, and a “greater convenience” sales pitch, they catapulted into the custom coffee market in a huge way…transforming how that entire market now is thought about and utilized by the public. It was a small menu innovation and suddenly a whole new concept swept the nation.

What’s next? Wi-Fi. Yes, McDonalds announced that by the end of this year, 2010, they hope to have all 14,000 domestic locations equipped with FREE Internet Service (well, three hours worth per customer, at least). If you have the choice among Burger King, Carl’s Jr, and McDonalds, and you know one has free Wi-Fi, which would you choose?  Which do you think any teen would choose? Do you think that will translate into many more Big Macs being sold? The bottom line is that the food does not matter. Keeping them in the store for hours will take care of that. They are betting on it, and I would suggest never betting against McDonalds.

And it will cost them a pittance to install and run Wi-Fi at each location.

The lesson here is not to disdain, but to learn and appreciate every innovation that might improve and enhance your restaurant business.

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