Please, Take the Halo Off of McDonalds!

September 28th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Please, Take the Halo Off of McDonalds!

There’s been quite a bit of buzz lately about all the “wonderful things” McDonalds has been doing lately – posting calorie counts of their meals on the menu board, opening a vegetarian restaurant in India, and moving towards reducing the sugar and salt content in their foods.

Clearly, McDonalds has been winning the Public Relations war in the past 2 weeks as most media outlets and newspapers are painting them as a food industry leader with even glimpses of halos surrounding the golden arches. But let’s look a little closer and unpack what’s really going on here, and I think we’ll see something quite a bit less than an altruistic industry leader.

For starters, posting calorie counts on the menu boards is not some generous, ground breaking move that McDonald’s decided would be a benefit to their customers; but rather it’s the company becoming compliant with a regulation of the Affordable Health Care Act – more commonly known as ObamaCare. As a benefit to consumers, under the new health care bill, all restaurants with more than 20 locations will have to post calorie counts on their menus, though the precise timetable for doing so has not yet been detailed.

In fairness to the company, McDonald’s, which has 14,000 locations around the country, is the largest chain to post calorie counts nationwide. Panera Bread, which has more than 1,500 bakery-cafes across the country, also posts calorie counts. McDonald’s has decided to get out ahead of the issue and has acted before the federal requirement takes effect.

This morning I decided to check out the new menu boards first hand at my local McDonalds – see the accompanying photo above. My favorite “calorie count” was the Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes Meal, coming in at a whopping 1,420 calories. Yikes! If the goal were merely to purchase calories, then this would be a tremendous value at only $3.79. One dollar would get you 375 calories… such a deal.

My guess is that these calorie counts will ultimately have little impact on those who dine (perhaps too generous a word) at McDonalds. If we’re fortunate, we can hope that the possible impact will be someone changing an order from a large or supersize fries to a regular.

As for the other “amazing acts” we’ve recently seen from McDonalds, here’s the brief rundown on them. Of course they opened a vegetarian restaurant in India. The cow is considered a very sacred animal in India, so I see this move as not so much out of respect for their culture, as much as the need to modify their product mix in order to sell more food.

And how about the cutting back of sugar and salt? Both of these initiatives are scheduled to occur over a 5-10 year period. If they feel like these items need to be reduced, why not just make the changes immediately? We’re talking simple recipe changes. Well, it turns out that McDonalds will gradually reduce the salt and sugar proportions in their food so gradually each year that their patrons over time will probably not even notice the reduction. Again, I don’t see this as altruism, but rather a calculated move for survival.

I have no problem giving credit where credit is due, but I just think the mainstream press got a little carried away with the McDonald’s hype on these issues. They needed to do a little better than simply reprinting press releases from the company.

So, congratulations McDonalds on taking the lead in posting calorie counts – whatever your motivation. Now, how about opening some vegetarian or organic and natural foods based restaurants here in the states?