Dear McDonald’s, It’s Not About the Burgers (or even the Yogurt)

by  Karin Hurt  |  Leadership Development

A recent Wall Street Journal article, McDonald’s Tackles Service Woes, describes McDonald’s continued economic and customer service challenges.

“McDonalds Corp., battling back from recent earnings disappointments, is putting unusual emphasis on a long-time challenge: getting it’s far flung workforce to provide service with a smile.”

Excerpts from a leadership webcast to franchise owners warned that “1:5 complaints are related to friendliness issues” and that “service is broken.”

The article was short on solutions. I’ve partnered with other Lead Changers to help.

A Letter to McDonald’s

Dear McDonald’s,

I know you’re frustrated that your internal presentation on fixing customer service was leaked to the press. That stinks. You can recover. At least we know you are trying to fix it. We’d all like a bit more happy with our meals.

5 suggestions

1. Envision great service.
Apparently one of your franchise owners said, “I think it’s an ongoing problem and always will be.” If your franchises can’t envision a great service future, you’ll never achieve it. Define what great service looks like. Ask your franchise owners, ask customers, ask employees. Build the vision together.

2. Invest in your frontline leaders
No doubt managing a McDonald’s is a high-pressure tough leadership gig. Most of your managers have limited experience. Teach them the basics (i.e. motivation, developing trust, recognitionencouraging attendance, running effective meetings). Leaders must model great service by providing great support to their people.  A good read on this subject, Three Signs of a Miserable Job (anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability).

3. Establish non-negotiable standards
Require exceptional customer services from all franchises.  Create a renewable certification process. Be willing to close restaurants that don’t treat customers or employees well.

4. Learn from the best.

Some of your franchises have figured this out. Some are paying more.  Some create motivating work environments.  Some apologize to customers with coupons.  Go learn from them. Correlate their experience metrics with sales. Prove to others that employee engagement is profitable.

5. Create motivating compensation structures
No one’s going to get rich flipping burgers, but they must be able to live. A good variable pay structure can help. Pay for excellence. Determine what matters most and incent for that. Some of your competitors have great employee benefits for tenured employees— and great service.

P.S. No burgers were consumed during the writing of this article.

What advice do you have for McDonald’s?

Thanks to the Lead Changers instigators who contributed their ideas for this post:

Mike Henry Sr (Lead Change Founder), David DyeKelly Ketleboeter, and Dorothy Dalton

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Justin Keith  |  26 Apr 2013  |  Reply

In a world of unlimited products, it takes remarkable customer experience to keep customers. Especially when dealing with unremarkable products such as the cheapest burger in town…

Right on point Karin. McDonald’s isn’t the only place that could use this advice.

Karin Hurt  |  26 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Thanks so much Justin. You are right, this not just a McDonald’s issue.

Karin Hurt  |  26 Apr 2013  |  Reply

I am very impressed with @McDonaldsCorp fast and friendly response to me when i tweeted this post to them. @letsgrowleaders Thanks. Input from our customers is a gift. We’re trying to improve and grow every day. That makes me want to go buy a happy meal ;-)

Mike Henry  |  26 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Wow! A socially conscious organization. Glad to see them paying attention. Thanks for the great post and the credit. I didn’t add much. Great post! Mike…

David M. Dye  |  26 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Nice letter and nice response, Karin.

Let the revolution continue…

Take care,


Jeff Orr  |  29 Apr 2013  |  Reply

This is a great example of how vision leaks. As leaders, we can’t cast the vision and then, “set it and forget it.” Employees have stressors in their lives that occupy their minds and get in the way of their work at times. A leader’s job is never done when it comes to inspiring their employees to embrace and live out the vision!

Join The Conversation