July 6, 2005
It's not hard to spot the local McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) . The golden arches have been synonymous with the restaurant chain since 1955 when Ray Kroc opened his Des Plaines, Ill., restaurant, and they remain prominent markers in many communities to this day. Now the company is hoping to create another very visible symbol of its brand using a resource even more numerous than its restaurants -- its employees.
The fast food giant is reportedly mulling an $80 million initiative to remake its uniforms. McDonald's is courting designers, including those from Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Sean John label, Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL ) , Tommy Hilfiger (NYSE: TOM ) , and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF ) , among others. The hope is that the new duds will reflect a cooler, more active image that McDonald's is trying to present to customers. McDonald's is looking to create uniforms that employees would want to wear outside of work.
The fast food purveyor's concern with uniforms might seem almost inconsequential, though it probably shouldn't be dismissed so easily. The company has been working hard to revitalize its brand with fresh advertising and healthier menu choices. But if McDonald's really wants customers to think of its restaurants as hip, its most powerful weapon may be its employees. Right now, the image that employees' uniforms present is of a distant and stale past.
Granted, a job at McDonald's doesn't carry a lot of prestige. But giving workers a uniform they actually like could attract more applicants and lead to happier employees. This in turn should lead to better customer service. That alone could make the investment in the uniforms well worth it.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.