The new Mickey D’s makeovers have started to land near our home town. We stopped at a red light by a McDonald’s restaurant in an old Connecticut mill town today and did a double-take — behind huge glass panes we could see elegant lighting, muted greens, and what looked like granite tables.
McDonald’s started the massive redesign of its 30,000 global stores back in 2006, chasing Starbucks with three new ambient partitions — a sitting area with Wi-Fi and arm chairs, a “grab and go” zone with bar stools and flat-panel TVs, and a “flex” zone with colorful — but not plastic — seating for families. Even the red mansard roof will eventually get whacked, and the total cost works out to about $350,000 per store, about equal to a year of a single store’s profits.
The McDonald’s revolution, along with upscale salad, coffee and chicken menu tweaks, may be the ultimate sign of the democratization of good design in the U.S. And the hyper-expensive move should pay off. McDonald’s was on the verge of becoming a plasticky anachronism, got crap a few years ago for dirty stores and sloppy operations, and even though we loved it as kids, we cringed as parents every time our kids asked to go. The old McDonald’s was akin to reading a week-old newspaper; even if the content was OK, we don’t want things that are out of date.
Funny how changing red and yellow colors to terra cotta, yellow, olive and sage makes little burgers on stale buns taste better. We’re loving it.