Tag Archives: McDonald’s

How McDonald’s Ruined Oatmeal

Oh McDonald’s. Is there no food out there that you won’t turn to shit?

Mark Bittman explains:

The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Here’s what I take from this story. Typically with products from McDonald’s, there’s an argument to be made that they are making a cheaper product, and thus making it more accessible to those who frequent McDonald’s due to financial constraints. “Quality isn’t the issue”, the proponents for McDonald’s state. “It’s calories available for the cheap and convenient.”

Okay, that’s fine for what it’s worth. But as Bittman points out, such an argument can’t be made with oatmeal. It is already a cheap product starting out. No process out there makes it cheaper. With the ingredients added to the McDonald’s product, it makes it more expensive. So that rules out the “cheap calories” argument.

As for the convenience argument? It’s instant oatmeal for god’s sake. You have a packet, you add hot water, you wait a minute, you have breakfast. Outside of toast, it’s one of the easiest meals you can make.

Of course, McDonald’s is not saying that their food is cheap or convenient, at least not in regard to their oatmeal. What they are implying is that it is nutritious. (What they actually say is that it is “Wholesome“, which is little more than marketing speak to which we are to infer it’s nutritious nature).

The problem, as Bittman points out, is that their version has nutrition issues.

Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. McDonald’s? If your listening, please take note. Stop. Just stop. Stop trying to pretend that you sell nutritious products. Embrace your fat filled pies and your calorie laden-burgers. Put the onus of healthy choice upon your customers. Because every time you try to sell a “healthy” product, it comes across as, at best, as lazy and hypocritical, and at worst, cynical manipulation to get people into your stores. As Bittman again notes “…if you buy oatmeal, they’re o.k. with that. But they know that, once inside, you’ll probably opt for a sausage biscuit anyway”.


Dear McDonald’s,

I realize that you’d like to remove all negative connotations surrounding the ample job opportunities that your company provides. But your latest foray against dictionary creators and their inclusion of the word ‘McJob’ seems a bit, shall we say, odd.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘McJob’ as “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector.”

Now, having worked at a McDonald’s in the early 1990′s, let me provide my own assessment of your job compared against the definition that the OED provides.

Unstimulating? This is probably the weakest point of the entire definition, as what’s stimulating for one person may not be stimulating for another. But in my experience, the job itself was rather rote. It was not much of a challenge to set up the store every morning, and running drive-thru quickly became an assembly line operation. The only thing that broke up the monotony of the job was the small percentage of customers who were so friendly that their appearance seemed to equate that of a sighting of a white whale.

Low-paid job? Hell yes. I was single, working 30+ hours at McD’s, and also selling a bit of writing here and there, and doing a paid-performance here and there, and I still required government assistance (food stamps) in order to make ends meet. Working for minimum wage can do that to a person.

As a side note, remember Chris Rock’s take on minimum wage (and I’m paraphrasing here) – “If a company is paying you minimum wage, it means that they want to pay you less, but legally can’t”.

Oh, and benefits? There were some if I were a full time employee, but it was made sure by management that I rarely got 40 hours of work. The same for tuition reimbursement.

Few Prospects? The only prospects provided to most Fast-food workers is to go into fast food management, where a person can then get paid a salary, working additional hours without the 40+ overtime wage that the hourly employees were required to get. However, it should be said that once a person made it into management, benefits would kick in.

Now unless things have changed in the past sixteen years, I can’t see how the OED’s definition is incorrect.

So perhaps it’s the ‘Mc’ part of the word that has you in a fit. But the fact is that your restaurants have led the way in franchising and implementing the idea of globalization into your business strategy. You have more stores than any other service sector companies out there, on the planet. Because of this, it doesn’t take that great of a leap of logic to determine that you are currently the worldwide leader in providing low paying jobs with limited opportunities, and have been for almost a generation now. You may not have invented low paying jobs with limited advancement, but I’m willing to bet that you’ve made the most money off of it.

But what really confuses me is the following line in the Chicago Tribune piece on your recent battles:

McDonald’s executives say the definition is demeaning to its workers.

So let me get this straight – your corporation underpays workers, provides little opportunities for advancement, provides little in the way of health benefits, provides little to no benefits regarding tuition reimbursement, and it’s the dictionary that’s demeaning to workers?

Color me puzzled at your logic.

Love Sincerely,


More evidence of the McDonalds/Starbucks non-story

Nicole reminded me of an important fact – A fair amount of McDonalds recently changed the coffee supplier and are now getting their grind from Seattle’s Best.

The Punchline? Seattle’s Best is owned by Starbucks.

The McDonald’s/Starbucks non-story

Well, it’s not a non-story, but the reality is certainly different than the one being tossed around the internet.

Some back ground: Consumer Reports did a taste test of the brewed coffee from four different fast food places – Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Their findings?

Try McDonald’s, which was cheapest and best, or make your own coffee–just call it something special. The other three were all only OK, but for different reasons.

Okay, so they prefer McDonald’s over Starbucks. That, in of itself is no big deal. But the comparison became a quick and easy headline (McDonald’s Better than Starbucks!!) that took off and was repeated in many different places.

So while the idea that McDonalds’ brewed coffee was better than Starbucks’ brewed coffee is kind of interesting, it ignores two basic facts.

  1. Starbucks primarily sells espresso and espresso based drinks. Their brewed coffee probably makes up a small percentage of their sales (I’m guessing in the single digits).
  2. McDonald’s does not sell espresso and espresso based drinks. Their coffee products are brewed only.

In short, the conclusions drawn from Consumer Reports are notable, but the press narrative based off of those conclusions are completely wrong. Wake me up when McDonald’s gets an espresso machine.

And damn them all for making me defend Starbucks!

Technorati Tags: Starbucks, McDonalds, Taste Test, Coffee

Starbucks and McDonald’s according to the New York Times

Let me summarize the two key points in the New York Times piece entitled The Breakfast Wars:

  • Starbucks is hoping that their breakfast sandwiches aren’t as crappy as their pastries.
  • McDonald’s hoping that their new coffee isn’t as crappy as their old brew.

For the record, Starbuck’s new sandwiches are horrible. As noted in the article, when they cool down, they become nearly inedible.

As for McDonald’s – I haven’t eaten there in a long while, but I do note that here in the Pac NW, they are using Seattle’s Best, which is only marginally better than their old drip coffee. Seattle’s Best is also owned by Starbucks, which I find ironic, considering the points made in the New York Times piece.

Side Note: I’m of the belief that if the word “Best” is anywhere in the company name or a product that a company sells, they should have to prove it.

And yes, it seems as if I’m in a bit of a mood today.

Technorati Tags: Starbucks, McDonald’s

An Idea who’s time has come

Canadian School to Ronald McDonald : Don’t let the door hit ya’ where the good lord split ya’.

Education officials say Ronald McDonald, the clown mascot for fast-food giant McDonald’s, sends contradictory and confusing messages during his appearances in elementary schools to promote fitness and healthy eating.

The department has sent a memo to all school districts advising them that the McDonald’s clown is inconsistent with the fitness goals and objectives of the province’s school system.

Amen. Out of the many dispicible things Fast Food has done, I think how they’ve insinuated themselves into classrooms is the worst. I have no problems with them selling their wares. I have no problem with the calorie content of their food. I have many problems with them getting free advertising in school and/or supplying the kids with lunches, and then trying to deflect any criticism thrown at them by providing “educational” classes about nutrition and exercise. Can you say “Mixed messages”? I knew that you could.

Technorati Tags: Fast Food, McDonald’s

Fast Food Honesty

Derrick recently pointed me to a new site called Rudd Sound Bites, the weblog of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. On the site, there was a brief post about Burger King, and their penchant for being unapologetic for the fat content in their food.

Subsequently BK has added a Triple Whopper and BK stackers, which layer burgers, cheese, bacon, and sauce. The Quad Stacker has 4 hamburgers, 4 slices of cheese, 8 strips of bacon, and sauce weighing in 1000 calories, 68 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, and 1800 mg of sodium (78% of a day’s total).

One wonders about the corporate wisdom of this strategy. BK might do well initially, but I believe is a sitting duck in the long-term. The company is probably more vulnerable to lawsuits and will lose ground with consumers (particularly the next generation – today’s children) who are becoming more nutrition conscious. These are exactly the traps several of the big investment banks have warned companies against in reports on the obesity problem. Looks like BK might be positioning itself to go down in flames.

Dr. Kelly Brownell is the author of the post, and I’m not sure I completely agree with his assessment of the situation. It’s my belief that by trumpeting the unhealthiness of their food by Burger King (and Hardee’s for that matter, where meat is a condiment) inoculates these companies from lawsuits. It’s not as if these restaurants are promoting these foods as healthy, when in fact they seem to be getting a fair amount of press on how unhealthy these products actually are. It’s going to be difficult to successfully sue Burger King or Hardee’s when they can provide ample evidence of these “negative” publicity articles.

Of course there’s ample room for distrust of the fast food industry. Thanks in large part to McDonald’s misguided idea that they can be all things to all people, and then Kentucky Fried Chicken’s fabricated claim that fried chicken is the “cornerstone of a healthy diet“, it’s easy to be concerned about their claims to health. But this? This is a different approach to selling their products. The press release states clearly:

“We’re satisfying the serious meat lovers by leaving off the produce and letting them decide exactly how much meat and cheese they can handle.”

That’s not subterfuge, that’s an invitation. While they are not coming out and saying that their BK Stacker is unhealthy, they certainly aren’t hiding the fact that this product is all bun, burger and cheese, and lots of it. If I go in and purchase this sandwich, how is Burger King liable?

As to the larger point of Dr. Brownell’s post, whether or not this strategy is good for the company long term (lawsuits aside), we’ll have to wait and see. My bet is that they’ll still be in a battle with Wendy’s for the number two position in the Fast Food hierarchy, and they’ll still show profits.

I, for one, am glad to see fast food restaurants being unapologetic for their products. By being clear on who they are and what they sell, it makes it easier for me to decide whether or not I visit their establishments. That I choose not to is worth noting, but only if you keep in mind that I don’t really fit into their core demographics.

Technorati Tags: Food, Fast+Food, Restaurants