Blinging the Golden Arches

What is McDonald’s up to? Why does it keep rolling out these “upscale” outlets? First there was the McCafé, a Starbucks clone that never fulfilled its U.S. promise. Then there were the European McDonald’s “sophisticated” makeovers, with leather chairs, abstract artwork, and fireplaces. Now comes word that Canadian Mickey D’s will be getting Euro face-lifts—and the red-and-yellow color scheme is out:

Changes include altering the trademark red mansard roof and offering WIFI in some locations. Walls … will come in a variety of colours now, including sages and warm taupe. Granites, bamboo, birch, limestone, nickel and other metals will be used in some of the redesigns.

Bzzt, try again, says marketing blogger Michelle Lamar.

McDonald’s as upscale is like Wal-Mart going for the Nordstrom’s customers. Your audience is what it is and you can make the stores look great—but unless the FOOD is way healthier (which I would like to see) you are wasting your money.

Well, according to the New York Times, the new “sophisticated” McDonald’s are rolling out healthier food (although I notice that in all the photos the customers seem to be eating the same old schlock). And the tactic seems to be working: The company’s sales reports cite “increased traffic.”

But will any of this fly in the United States? If you really want to find out, head to Saratoga Springs, Utah, where a prototype Euro-style McDonald’s opened in March, complete with lounge chairs, fireplace, and muted colors. No word on whether you’ll be able to order le p’tit moutarde, the French McHamburger on a ciabatta roll with mustard sauce.

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