After all, the company rationalized that new menu items had always been a part of McDonald's innovative image, and keeping on the cutting edge of restaurant trends, as had been the case with the introduction of its innovative breakfast sandwich items like the Egg McMuffin in 1976 and Chicken McNuggets in 1980 ("McDonald's Case Study,"2008).
Effectiveness of the Decision-Making Process
One problem with initiating changes like the "Made for You" campaign in the fast food industry is that customers are not always cognizant that the changes have occurred, as they are not usually connoisseurs of the food, only apprehending vaguely a decline or improvement in quality. "It seems a little bit better," observed one consumer when prompted by a reporter, noting "the bacon looks like it's just been cooked." Another frequent McDonald's patron was more complementary: "it seems like the Quarter Pounder is juicier," declared Rosemary Frigo, a nurse from Downers Grove, Ill., as she devoured an Extra Value Meal at the McDonald's in nearby Darien. 'The Quarter Pounder used to be thrown in the microwave sometimes and they would overcook the meat,' she added" (Canedy 1998). Still, there was the embarrassment of the similarity to Burger King's famous slogan that customers could 'have it their way,' a problem not apparently anticipated in McDonald's harmonious decision-making process (most of the top level management had agreed to undertake the change without much debate). Upon the "Made for You" campaign launch, Burger King crowed "that in letting customers choose their trimmings," McDonald's has essentially adopted the approach that it has long touted under its slogan, "Have it your way" and Burger King spokespersons openly forecasted that the new campaign would generate unintended publicity for Burger King, not cause customers to return to McDonald's (Canedy 1998).
Yet McDonald's brand proved more durable than Burger King would like to have believed. Food cost savings came even swifter than expected -- at one Manhattan McDonald's, food wastage costs "declined by about $100 a month" while sales increased 7% in the year that the outlet has been using the new system. Less successful in the new campaign were the new menu items based upon the competition. The lesson learned was this: customers did not notice or care that the new delivery and assembly model was inspired by Burger King. However, they did care if the new menu items seemed like imitations of Burger King originals like the Whopper and did not 'bite' at the new offerings, wisely thinking that they would go to the original source, rather than sample McDonald's knock-off. Unlike the truly innovative Egg McMuffin, which brought hot breakfasts to a once breakfast-phobic, cereal eating nation, the Whopper imitation fell flat. There was nothing new about the Big Extra's taste or presentation, fundamentally, unlike the earlier introduction of Chicken McNuggets. Interestingly, when Burger King created a burger with mayonnaise to challenge the Big Mac's ascendency on the front of 'special sauce' or mayo-laded burgers, it was also ignored by Burger King and McDonald's loyalists alike (Canady 1998).
Reflect on your own decision-making process
The lessons of McDonald's may seem to be contradictory -- McDonald's gained a huge payoff and competitive advantage, instituted substantial savings, and experienced less difficulties than anticipated with a 'pull' generated system of hamburger assembling, driven by demand, rather than its usual push system which anticipated demand and held the burgers for too long. Yet its other imitated decision, inspired by Burger King, to introduce new menu offerings similar to that of its rival did little to rehabilitate the company's fortunes. Why? McDonald's had to remain true to itself, to its expected offerings and to its image of offering good-tasting, fast food Learning from Burger King's supply chain did not impinge upon McDonald's brand integrity, shamelessly copying the Whopper did.
McDonald's should learn from these lessons of its recent past. Burger King is once again gaining ground in the eternal 'Burger Wars' of the fast food industry. Acknowledging McDonald's unparalleled dominance in marketing to children and its exclusive advertising campaigns with Disney, Mattel, and Barbie, amongst other popular toys and media outlets popular with kids Burger King is creating its own market base (Buscemi 2007). Burger King, by allowing McDonald's dominance in the younger demographic of consumer and not expending its scarce resources in this area, has turned its eyes to older teenagers and adults, through such off-beat advertising campaigns as the "subservient chicken" the "Creepy King" and promotions involving Xbox games (Buscemi 2007). It has refined its own branding and created a unique niche in doing so, thus making itself a rival for the Golden Arches and also not generating negative publicity about 'pandering' to children.
Burger King has also remained truer to the traditional concerns of the adult fast food consumer for taste over health. After all, a nutritional comparison of the most famous competing menu items yields the following data: the Big Mac looks relatively paltry to the Whopper. While neither burger of either food chain could claim to be "part of a healthy, balanced diet," the Big Mac, weighs in at 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 45 grams of carbohydrates, and already contains slices of cheese, while the Whopper, boasts 670 calories, 39 grams of fat, and 51 grams of carbohydrates without the additional, but frequently requested additional cheese (Buscemi 2007). "McDonald's has been advertising their salads, looking to appease the mothers who bring their children into the golden-arched restaurants," but Burger King, acknowledging that it is never going to win any dietary prizes, "has gone the other direction, promoting the Stacker sandwich, a sandwich made of layers of meat and cheese stacking up to four burgers high" (Buscemi 2007).
The lessons to be learned are to stay true to one's brand name and values, whatever these values may be. Innovation in presentation if they result in added speed, savings, and quality improvement, even when these models are based upon observing the competition is acceptable. Fundamentally altering as tried and true a brand name as McDonald's, however, is another thing entirely. Decision-making processes can involve learning from the competition, but learning does not mean obscuring one's fundamental organizational values and mission, and subverting customer expectations.