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Are Smoothies and Caramel Mochas Killing McDonald's?

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 15, 2013 at 5:30PM

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Customer service complaints are creeping higher at Mickey D's. Premium beverages may be the problem.

Mickey D's has a problem.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that McDonald's (MCD 2.14%) 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 (WEN 1.22%).

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 (JMBA) and provided a spark at Starbucks (SBUX 2.03%), 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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Stocks Mentioned

McDonald's Corporation Stock Quote
McDonald's Corporation
$233.91 (2.14%) $4.91
Starbucks Corporation Stock Quote
Starbucks Corporation
$73.39 (2.03%) $1.46
Jamba Stock Quote
The Wendy's Company Stock Quote
The Wendy's Company
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