It’s hard to believe that 2010 marks McDonald’s seventieth year of international trading. First established by the McDonald brothers in California in 1940, McDonald’s first came to the UK in the early 1970s (it now has over 1200 restaurants in the UK, with fewer than 30% being franchise operations); and its basic trade of selling burgers has been popular ever since.
Despite this, McDonald’s still seems very ‘of the moment’. The company has got this youthful persona largely because it has changed its image to suit our society’s mood and vogues. Major refurbishment of its stores to make them more appealing to customers’ needs is one example, but McDonald’s decision to advertise its use of British beef reflected the British public’s concern in supporting the British farmer. Love or hate them, one must admit that McDonald’s has done a good job in adopting a healthy facet to its business. Not only does the company include a range of salads, fruit juices and organic milk on its menu, but nutritional information of even the fattiest McDonald’s burger is easily available on its website so one can see what one is putting in one’s mouth, so to speak. In other words, if you enter one of its 1200+ restaurants and plump for one its more unhealthy meals, you have only got yourself to blame.
Telling myself this, I entered McDonald’s in Winchester knowing what I was going to put into my mouth.
Outside – 20/20
Pre-refurbishment the store sported a look of stone and white lettering which looked upmarket, but was badly let down by the yellow ‘M’ on a red background sign above the door. However, gone is the red and yellow sign and in its place was a tasteful olive green version. The stonework had also been painted in the company’s new corporate colour of olive green, making the store look modern and, more importantly, inviting.
Inside – 19/20
Winchester’s branch seems to have pulled-off McDonald’s new look for their stores, it being one of the better restaurants I have seen. Hanging slatted wood, exposed brickwork, and funky (I can’t believe I said funky) looking chairs are a far cry from the dreary yellow and red plastic that was emblematic of the company in the past; the store even boasted free wi-fi. Despite it being a Friday lunchtime, there was no queue and I easily found somewhere to sit. The only downside, however, was that there were too many taking advantage of the free internet connection – you can only listen to Katy Perry Ft Snoop Dogg a certain number of times before visions of how to ram French fries into computers become very appealing.
Customer Service – 20/20
Ordering food in McDonald’s is, quite probably, the easiest and slickest operation in the world. However, despite the small amount of contact time between employee and customer, good customer service is still of importance. I was served by a very pleasant young girl (ie. my age!) who dutifully carried out my order of a ‘Big Mac Meal’ with charm and efficiency.
Did I buy anything? – 12/20
I opted for the classic ‘Big Mac Meal’ which, in 2004, The Sun claimed took a 10-mile walk to burn off its 1,411 calories. However, already armed with the knowledge (from mcdonalds.co.uk) that the meal was less than healthy and factoring in Winchester’s notorious hills, whatever the number of calories the ‘Big Mac Meal’ had I didn’t mind. The meal was more-or-less tasty, but it was the presentation that has resulted in me giving ’12/20′; the three bread buns so characteristic of the meal seemed to have never been in contact with each other, for they were spread all over the place, the lettuce was all at the bottom of the cardboard box, and there was, approximately, three tons of mayonnaise involved. If Ikea made flat-pack burgers which you had to make for yourself, this was it.
The Interweb – 20/20
Mcdonalds.co.uk is the cleanest fast-food retailer website. With a terracotta background, the site is easy to navigate and has seasonal offers and foods clearly displayed on the homepage. A big deal is made of the company’s interest in helping British farmers and their charity work, and the nutritional information is clearly linked on the food page. The only puzzling feature was the ‘Piccadilly sign’…
Overall – 91/100
If you know me well, you were probably expecting this review to come to the opinion of AVOID McDonald’s Winchester… it’s horrible. But, I am sorry to disappoint you – I was rather impressed. Yes, I’d rather spend my money on a sandwich from Waitrose, and the idea of having a fast-food meal really doesn’t appeal to me but, all things considered, McDonald’s excels at its job. The re-furbished stores have transformed what used to be a depressing eating experience and, with their transparent menu on their website, are honest at what they do too.
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