RE: What should McD's do?
Fri, 04/15/05 6:37 PM
I'm not necessarily saying that I agree with everything in it, but below, I have copied a mini-essay on the occasion of McDonald's 50th Anniversary. This piece comes from the daily e-letter that is sent to Wells Fargo shareholders. Just to give proper attribution, the author is Peter Nulty, the editor of the Wells Fargo e-letter. I think that this is interesting, and gives a somewhat different perspective on the fast food giant that everyone loves to hate. See below:
"Saying good things about McDonald's isn't popular these days, but Friday is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first McDonald's, and I have some good things to say.
Let's remember (if you are old enough) what the world was like on April 15, 1955. Very few families could afford to eat out more than once or twice a year. My family rarely went to restaurants, and when we did it was considered a major extravagance. When I went to college in the early ‘60s, my parents gave me the equivalent of $2 a week in spending money. But on Sunday evenings, the dining facilities were closed and students had to fend for themselves. So I would go to a local diner with my friends for the cheapest blue-plate special in town: It cost $1.75, and left me with 25 cents to last the rest of the week. Eventually I found a part time job and life got easier, but for a while there I was pretty crimped.
Then, in 1962, a McDonald's opened up on the edge of town, and I could get essentially the same meal – a burger, fries, and a cola – for 35 cents, leaving me enough pocket money to go to a movie and hang out for a few hours at the local student coffee house. For me in those years, McDonald's was a miracle of efficiency and consistency that raised my standard of living.
I wasn't the only one impressed. My wife's cousin, who lived behind the "Iron Curtain" in Hungary, got a three-week visa in 1972 to visit America, and my wife drove him to California and back to see the sights. Even in those early days, my wife was no fan of McDonald's, but her cousin wouldn’t eat anywhere else. Why? He was amazed at American bounty. He had been told that capitalist workers were wallowing in the gutter. Instead he found them chowing down at clean, friendly, brightly-lit McDonald's for a fraction of the price he was used to paying in the Socialist paradise back home. Also, he thought the food tasted good. So the socialist and the capitalist ate at McDonald's all the way to California and back, and even today he says that the most surprising thing about his first view of America was McDonald's.
Soon after the cousin returned to Budapest, his father, who was the vice premier of Hungary at the time, instituted economic reforms that allowed entrepreneurs in Hungary to own their own small businesses. Those reforms energized the Hungarian economy and became the model for Gorbachev's "perestroika" reforms that began to thaw the Soviet Union in the ‘80s. I don't believe it's going overboard to say that the success of companies like McDonald's played a major role in bringing an end to the Cold War.
By providing copious protein for a pittance, McDonald's (and restaurants like it) enriched us all. But it also raised a new problem that we are now struggling with: Many of us consume more food than we need and we have to learn how to rein in our appetites somehow. But I'd rather have today's dilemma than the one we faced in 1955, when only the wealthy had to worry about being overweight. I don't blame McDonald's for making food affordable for me; I blame myself for lack of discipline. But I'm confident we will, um, lick this eventually.
Thank you, Richard and Maurice McDonald. Thank you Ray Kroc. And happy birthday, Mickey Dee's. Oh, yeah: Would you do something about that silly clown, Ronald What's-His-Face? He's really annoying. (Kidding!)"
Peter Nulty Editor