The McDonald's Rationalization

"Where you been, bitch?"

Last week, I did something bad. Really, really bad. It was Wednesday, and I was very hungry. But I was also very busy, and short on cash. And so I decided, with a sorrowful resignation, to do something I hadn't done in ages: I went to McDonald's.

 It was $.59 cheeseburger day, so I ordered three of those, as well as two little baggies of $.99 fries -- one for me, one for another writer who had a similar urge. All that cost $4. Shamefully hoisting the stash back to my desk, I quickly unpacked the cheep-o meal and scarfed it down. I felt an immediate rush of guilt -- namely since I've managed to avoid McDonald's for most of my adult life. Yet, there was something about those cheeseburgers -- the tiny flecks of onion, perhaps -- that instantly reminded me of my childhood. Damn them for that. Damn them for owning a piece of my food memory.

The experience haunted me until this morning, when I found this article in the New York Times that tells of a resurgent McDonald's.

Blame the economy if you want, but adults are coming back to the golden arches in droves. Was I one of them? Now, the once maligned franchise corporation, once target of films like Super Size Me and attacks from animal rights groups, is actually seeing sales increase. A lot. Perhaps most telling is the company's stock: It reached its zenith last August, just over $67 a share, and has held on in a rancid economy, closing last week at $60. Here's an excerpt from the story:

It wasn't too long ago that McDonald's, vilified as making people fat, was written off as irrelevant. Now, six years into a rebound spawned by more appealing food and a less aggressive expansion, McDonald's seems to have won over some of its most hardened skeptics.

The chain has managed to sustain its momentum even as the economy and the restaurant industry as a whole are struggling. Month after month, McDonald's has surprised analysts by posting stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and abroad.

The article sites a lot of reasons why McDonald's may be seeing such a boost in sales: changes in corporate direction, healthful food options, sleek new layouts, and specialty beverages have all been large factors. My guess is that all these things have combined to alleviate some of the negative perceptions about McDonald's. Once those perceptions are lifted, people who still remember what a classic cheeseburger tastes like, despite their best efforts to forget, have no reason not to come back.    

As for me, I'm going to do my best to avoid another relapse. But I'm not making any promises.

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