Are Smoothies and Caramel Mochas Killing McDonald's?

Mickey D's has a problem.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) hosted a webcast with its franchisees last month, alerting them to an unwelcome trend in employee friendliness.

The fast-food giant reportedly told its franchise owners that one in every five complaints coming in related to unfriendly employees -- and the trend is getting worse.

The same article singles out a QSR study that showed that the average customer had to wait 188.8 seconds at the chain's drive-thru, nearly a minute more than rival Wendy's (NASDAQ: WEN  ) .

In this video, Rick argues that the problem could be the ever-widening McCafe menu. The push for smoothies and premium coffee beverages has been generally applauded by analysts, giving the chain pricier drink options that can help prop up the amount that a typical customer will spend at the restaurant. Fruit smoothies helped define Jamba (NASDAQ: JMBA  ) and provided a spark at Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX  ) , but these are companies that specialize in beverages. Having a broad range of menu items at Jamba Juice and Starbucks is fine. It's different at McDonald's where customers call it "fast food" for a reason. If customers are waiting longer and the cacophony of automated smoothie blenders and coffee orders that aren't made just right are hurting the dining experience, McDonald's may want to reconsider the upscale shot.

It can't be mere coincidence that monthly comps were consistently positive since 2003 until slipping late last year as the chain's premium beverage menu kept expanding. Check out the video and post your thoughts in the comment box below if you agree or disagree with Rick's theory.

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Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 5:56 PM, harriet123 wrote:

    If you pay min. wage, hire non-highly educated workers, who only expect to stay a short time, then you're not going to get their full attention.

    Play to the audience. Make the food healthier and just as fast. Try to sell a Cinnamon Dolce Crème Frappuccino to your base and it's (1) too expensive, (2) it takes too much time prepare, and (3) people who come to MD don't order a Frappuccino with their Big Mac and fries.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 6:44 PM, Burstedbladder wrote:

    It's fast food, not gourmet. Stop price gouging the consumers on all your toxic foods.

    I don't eat at McD's because their food is poison imo. Not healthy for anyone to be consuming, and McD's is one of the biggest contributing factors to our obesity and diabetes problems in America.

    People should all learn to cook at home, grill their own burgers and spend time with their families.

    nuff said!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 7:07 PM, tex45 wrote:

    As a former McD manager and a present stockholder, I can assure you the problem is not the premium drinks. That's a mere cop-out. I ran stores in busy college towns and on interstate highways. The problem is untrained management, resulting in untrained employees. I don't know how the current training programs are structured, but McD's was always tops in the market when you take your training and apply it by the book. I had a manager that truly understood the role of the management staff and, when applied, it proved most effective. The attitude of managers and employees has become so lax and it has been tolerated to a point it has become acceptable. I see the evidence every time I go to McDonald's.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 7:29 PM, mousiez wrote:

    I actually make a point to GO to McDonalds BECAUSE of the coffees!

    They are WAY cheaper than the coffee shops AND they are pretty darn good, for the money.

    Why is McDonalds losing money?

    Well, NO ONE HAS ANY MONEY, they've even cut thier teeny 'frivolous' buys, now!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 7:56 PM, englishzaude wrote:

    The only reason I go to McDonalds now is for the iced coffee with mocha. However, for about a year after I started drinking them, 9 times out of 10 it wasn't made right. I had super rude associates not wanting to make it right, and they would talk about me where I could hear them.

    I wrote to McDonalds about it and that only made it worse for a few more months.

    Now I don't go so often anymore, but when I do it's usually okay.

    I would hate to see it go, but as long as you're going to pay people low wages, that's the kind of attitude you will get. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:07 PM, spantini wrote:

    I had to give up on my local McD's. The last four times I went there they consistently screwed up my order. Two walk-ins and two drive-thrus. The last time, I just walked back in and set my order on the counter in front of the manager and walked away shaking my head. There are too many competitors nearby that get my orders right every time.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:12 PM, NeNeis1 wrote:

    OMG LMFAO and all of the others! "The average wait time is 188 seconds"! You are killing me with laughter! If the wait at Wendy's is less, then for gosh sakes....please run, drive or pout your way over there. People need to chill the funk out, take a breath, and have some respect for other human beings and they're needs...geesh!@#

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:35 PM, chaneden wrote:

    Problem #1 is the staff. I have rarely run into an unfriendly person, but they tend to all be running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They're trying to go fast, but it appears they aren't organized enough to do so and it just makes things worse. I blame management for that. It seems like there's a McD's on every corner where I live. I will go out of my way to go to two particular ones because things are always smooth sailing there. If I make a mistake (as I did today) and go to one of the others, I regret it - which tells me it isn't the food, it's an organization issue.

    Problem #2 (and why I never go there to get anything but Happy Meals for my kids) - there aren't any sugar-free options. The coffees, smoothies and cherry berry chiller are delicious - but I will never order them again because the calories are through the roof. It can't possibly be that much more expensive to replace the corn syrup (or whatever) with stevia or a similar product. I'd be there everyday...extra few minutes or not...if they did that!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 8:44 PM, flowerpower68 wrote:

    First of all, I would expect the service to be slower at McDonalds than a Wendy's because they(McDonalds) serve so many more customers than an average Wendys. That being said, maybe it is time for McDonalds to give up on some operational tactics that are slowing down service:

    1)Doing breakfast and lunch at midnight...it just slows down service

    2)Put a timer in the present booth so the employees understand to move the cars.....stop talking with the customers about movies and your new day job

    3)Maybe aim the cameras that take pictures of the cars to correspond to their orders...it would speed up the tandem order points

    4)Park cars that add on at the present window. Go as far as posting a sign for the employees that state we park cars that add-on in order to give faster service to all of the customers.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 9:47 PM, pretejv wrote:

    They lost me when they started to put whipped cream over their milkshakes. Whipped cream and a reduction in size,was not a positive product enhancement!!!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 10:11 PM, crash3085 wrote:

    I've honestly never really had any complaints about the service at McDonalds. Sure, some of the employees may not be the brightest, but that doesn't make the service bad. My only complaint with McDonalds and other fast food restaurants is that the prices have gone up to the point of being ridiculous. I can now get a great sit down meal at a Thai or Chinese restaurant for the same price or less than I would pay for lesser quality eats at a fast food joint.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2013, at 10:32 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    I have had one of the coffee drinks made at one McDonalds be awesome and fast, and at another one be crappy and slow, at two separate McDonoldses that are within a ten minute drive of each other in LA. I think the most likely explanation is bad management/training/employees at particular McDonalds restaurants, not the drinks per se. It's likely training has not caught up to the menu.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 8:08 AM, kjdeck wrote:

    I had an order that came to $4.49. Because of the double lane drive through, my card was swiped for an order that was $5.67. I pointed this out when I got my receipt, she opened the drawer and handed me a 1 dollar bill and said "have a nice day". When I told her that was not the difference between the two orders her reply was "yes it is, your order was 4-something, I charged you 5-something and 5 minus 4 is 1"

    The problem isn't iced coffee. The problem is the employees

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 8:58 AM, mmpizzachick wrote:

    I can honestly say it is the managmet/ employee/training system, and the fact that they hire idiots to begin with. My daughter applied to our local Mcd's and was told they would call her in a week to start.. that was a month ago and they have since hired four people we know.. one was arrested with drugs, one flunked out of school, one is pregnant, and the other quit after 2 days... and the are all lets just say " minority". My daughter and a friend of hers( that also happens to be black, before you tell me I am racist) are straight A students that can actually do math and handle money and critically think ... therefore they are over-qualified for the job... You cant expect to get great employees to offer great service if you consistently hire from the bottom of the barell

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:21 AM, Tejay1974 wrote:

    To mmpizzachick, you know you could have easily left that part out that they were minorities. Your description of the individuals were quite enough. I know plenty of "minorities" who happen to have MBA's, and own businesses. I have gone to some establishments were the employees were not "minorities where they had criminal records. Your comment may have came off to you as intelligent, but to anyone reading this would see that you are indeed a closeted racist. Your daughters "friend being black", just proves my point that you are justifying what you had wrote. Unbelievable ignorance.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2013, at 4:11 PM, spantini wrote:

    Now it's all begining to make sense. I have seen many Walmarts with McDonalds inside. These two can hold hands on their way to bankruptcy in the (hopefully) near future.

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