One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2016 is: do not go to McDonald’s even once, for any reason. I almost made that goal in 2015, but when I was on the road and had missed dinner and was driving at about 8 p.m. one night and McDonald’s was the only option, I gave in. It was, of course, a mistake.
McDonald’s was once one of the strongest brands in America — but then, so were Blockbuster and TWA. I remember going to get McDonald’s cheeseburgers, fries, and a shake when I was a kid, 50 years ago, and it was good food. Those days are long gone, however. Now McDonald’s food is, in my opinion, virtually inedible. My last visit, which sealed my resolve to remain happily McDonald’s-free, involved getting a cheeseburger that tasted like it had been sunning itself under the heat lamps for approximately a decade or so. It was hard and looked and tasted like shoe leather, and the “melted” cheese had hardened to a sharp-edged, rubber-like consistency. It was so disgusting I couldn’t eat it, and I was starving.
What happened to McDonald’s? Who knows for sure, but at some point someone must have decided to cut corners, save a few bucks here and there, think that more salt equates to better flavor, and count on old habits and screaming kids insisting on Happy Meals to get the customers to keep visiting the Golden Arches. But Americans are no more committed to McDonald’s than we are to, say, making calls on land line phones. We are interested in looking for the next best thing and getting value — and right now we aren’t getting it from McD’s.
I’m not alone in this. McDonald’s sales have been falling for years, and its new management keeps promising changes that will resurrect the brand. I don’t think they can do it, because McDonald’s operators aren’t innovators or great competitors, they’re used to succeeding just by virtue of being the big dog with a stop on every corner. Former 800-pound gorillas don’t do well as suddenly underfed chimps.
Speaking of underfed, did I mention that I’m resolved to never eat at McDonald’s in 2016?