The famed fast food restaurant McDonald's is really one of the most amazing businesses in the world. It is the largest fast food restaurant in the world, and services 64 million people worldwide a day. In a time of global recession, its profits have continued to see tremendous increases. It touches almost every country
in the world. I particularly like the European variety as in most of them you can also buy beer, so in Italy I would sometimes go out of my way for a late-night snack at McDonald's and order a Happy Meal and a Peroni just because I could. The Economist has used the "Big Mac Index
" to study the purchasing parities between international currencies by judging the costs of Big Mac hamburgers in various countries. One of the amazingly American things about McDonald's is that its CEO, James Skinner, is a Navy veteran who never went to college and began his career as an assistant restaurant manager in Illinois, eventually working his way up
the ladder to the top spot.
An amazing thing about the corporation is its ability to adapt to suit local populations. Yes, these restaurants are all over the world, but they are different all over the world with all sorts of varying menus
- in China they have chicken burgers, in the Philippines spaghetti, in the UK porridge for breakfast, in Italy (where the restaurant has been declared "the death of fine cuisine", but Italy just likes make controversies out of things) you have a wider variety of salad choices, in India there is no beef or pork, Israel is kosher, etc. Even within the United States there are some minor regional differences in the menu to accommodate local tastes and preferences. They are very tuned in to what people want and how to market that (and seem to know more about international cultures than certain portions of our government!).
This is no more apparent than in the current transformations of McDonald's. Responding to increased clamoring for more healthy meals for children, the fast food chain is now lessening the amount of fries
in every Happy Meal and adding apple slices. As the fad of the nation, led by our First Lady, is increasingly seeming anti-hamburger, McDonald's is adapting-- if you go to the website of the largest hamburger restaurant in the world, you will not see a hamburger in site. No, at McDonalds.com
there is only freshness-- fruit, smoothies, coffee, a smiling family; these are what McDonald's is now using to brand itself. The restaurants are all transforming into more chic and upscale-looking joints, their McCafe and McSmoothie machines standing prominent in the front while their hamburger-crafting shelves remain tucked away in the back. They are a brilliant and formidable business that continues to be incredibly tuned in to the market and the attitudes of people around the world. Remarkable.