Zak Attack

The New York Times Took Geoffrey Zakarian to McDonald’s

He's a fan of the fries.
He’s a fan of the fries. Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

It’s tough to tell what, exactly, writer James B. Stewart hoped to achieve by taking chef and Food Network mainstay Geoffrey Zakarian to a Manhattan McDonald’s. He was, it seems, simply looking for some authoritative advice on how the struggling chain could help improve its operations as its sales figures continue to drop.

So, Zakarian, who offers that this is his very first trip ever to a McDonald’s (a claim that is Brian Williams-levels of dubious), immediately identifies all of the problems everyone who’s ever eaten at a McDonald’s has no doubt noticed: The restaurant is kinda gross, most of the food is even grosser (upon trying what is ostensibly his first-ever Quarter Pounder, the chef arrives at the conclusion “it is what it is”), and the fluorescent lighting is just all kinds of horrible. Oh, but the fries are good.

At this point it should go without saying that the conversation quickly shifted to Chipotle and Shake Shack, and all the things those chains are doing correctly these days: The design is better, the menu is more focused, the food is way better, and the concepts, as a whole, are just more appealing. When Stewart offers these thoughts to a McDonald’s rep, he learned that the massive chain is taking some now-established steps to help improve its image, such as updating the décor and offering those build-your-own burgers that everyone keeps going on about. Stewart also suggests he might like “a turkey or salmon burger option,” which are two things that would almost certainly be horrible to eat at a McDonald’s. If you want seafood, stick to the Filet-O-Fish.

In any event, it’s a professor at the Yale School of Management who offers the most solid advice found in the whole story: “McDonald’s needs to rethink all the elements of the value chain that impact the overall customer experience.” In other words, it might just be time to blow the whole thing up and rebuild, one Big Mac at a time.


The New York Times Took Geoffrey Zakarian to McDonald’s