Friday, January 16, 2004

McDonalds for Gourmet Tastes, with Respect on the Side

McDonalds wants to be respected for its gourmet food. And that's not a joke.

Yesterday in Philadelphia, the company opened its 12th Bistro Gourmet McDonalds, with granite counters, pendant lighting, soft classical music and a menu to match: grilled veggie panini, premium expresso and Hershey's hand-dipped ice cream. Statistics show that baby boomers and their children have been leaving fast food outllets for "fast casual" restaurants, which have more ambiance, upscale food and comfy seats. Of the first 11 Bistros, 9 have experienced annual sales growth of 10% to 20% since the upgrade.

On a whim today, I stopped for lunch at our local Golden Arches. It's probably been a year since I last ate at McDonalds.....we rarely go out for fast food, and when we do, we succumb to Carl's Jr hamburgers. I was surprised by the menu.....a variety of fresh trendy salads, lots of low-priced choices, a creative selection of soft-serve ice cream desserts, plus all the traditional fare. The menu was fresh and interesting, and not just a fat-and-carb feast.

On my way out, I grabbed a handful of brochures about McDonalds: Ronald McDonald House Charities, their famed program that's housed nearly 4 million families of hospitalized children in 20 countries, and their fleet of 50 vehicles that deliver low-cost medical and dental care to needy children; McDonalds' longtime award-winning track record as an equal opportunity employer; their commitment to community involvement through scholarships, event sponsorships and recycling programs.

McDonalds is the world's largest fast food chain, so it's naturally been villanized as a symbol of the wrongs of American nutrition. We all know that nutrition is a matter of will exercised by each of us. We can choose to eat healthy or not, whether at home or at McDonalds.

I, for one, choose to order an occasional lunch at an eatery that supports our children and community. And soon that lunch could be grilled veggie panini and a steaming cup of expresso.

McDonalds, you have my respect.

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