First we had to brace for a smarter, faster, stronger Martha Stewart, and now it looks like we'll have to do the same for McDonald's, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal that looks at how all those recent menu additions smoothies, oatmeal, fancy-schmancy coffee are keeping McDonald's at the top of the fast-food heap. But why'd they bother adding all this stuff in the first place? It all started with coffee, according to McDonald's USA President Jan Fields. "There was a time when McDonald's coffee was considered the best, but somewhere along the way we lost our way on it," she tells the Journal. "We noticed a significant decline in our coffee sales when customer demand for coffee was going up." Never again!
The strategy: Make everything that everyone else makes. Oh, there's a company called Jamba Juice that people like? McDonald's will make its own smoothies. People get oatmeal at Starbucks? Now they'll get oatmeal at McDonald's. People like to eat late at night? McDonald's will never close! Some franchisees in rural areas seem to be a little concerned about all the changes ("Our business is driven by keeping things simple," said one franchisee), but the message is clear: If you are a smaller restaurant chain and you're having a moderate degree of success selling something, McDonald's is going to sell it better than you. So there.
On McDonald's Menu: Variety, Caution [WSJ; subscription required]