McDonald's is lovin' it

McDonald's is apparently feeding more people in the UK than ever before. Who said fast food chains were burgered...?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

A few years ago, some people were writing off McDonald’s – after all, who would be buying burgers and fries in our brave new healthy world? Lots of people, as it turns out. In December, 88m visitors passed through the Golden Arches in the UK, 10m more than the previous year. Sales growth for its current financial year is running at nearly 6%, its highest level since the 1980s. Clearly the government’s expensive anti-obesity campaign isn’t really having the desired effect...

It’s a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for McDonald’s, which has been busy re-inventing itself since the 2005 film Super Size Me (in which Morgan Spurlock spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s, to horrifying effect) propelled it into the middle of the obesity debate. These days it has reduced the fat and salt content in its food and started selling salads, wraps and smoothies – although it’s notable that 90% of its sales are still coming from its traditional fare of burgers and fries. In November, it sold 2m Happy Meals a week – and we doubt that’s because of the bag of fruit they include these days…

News of McDonald’s resurgence has had anti-obesity groups throwing up their hands in despair. But as the fast food industry likes to remind us, it’s not just their fault that kids are getting fatter. Schools, families and the government all have a role to play in fighting obesity, and there’s no reason why a balanced diet can’t include the odd Big Mac every now and then.

McDonald’s should at least be on safer ground with its next big US plan. According to Monday’s Wall Street Journal, it wants to take on Starbucks by opening coffee shops in all of its US branches – and undercutting its rival on price. This could be worth an extra $1bn in sales every year, it reckons. It’s not the first time it’s tried to crack the coffee market – it’s previously bought stakes in Aroma (later sold to Costa) and Prêt a Manger – but it’s obviously decided that in-store bars are the way forward.

While in the UK, it’s busy trying to have the term ‘McJob’ removed from the dictionary, a campaign that’s receiving high-level business and political support. It looks as though the rumours of McDonald’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated...

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