McDonald’s 2.0


America’s most popular restaurant is keeping with the times

Eugene Glover of Liberty

It may be time to update your image of McDonald’s. It’s not quite the same fast food joint it’s always been.

The company recently did a rebuild and redesign of their Nanuet restaurant and the new style is quite a transformation. Replacing the old fast food feel is a new cross between classic McDonalds and a Starbucks or an Internet café.

McDonald’s outfitted the new-style restaurant with easy wi-fi access, making the location a go-to place for professionals looking to work while eating.

Three rows of counter seating are now available. The orange surface of the counter goes up and then curves over one’s head and then back down on the other side of the counter. The narrow wall (three of them, one for each counter) has a flat screen TV attached so customers can be updated on the latest news of the day.

McDonald’s customers agreed the new style is a real upgrade. Pedro Quecava of Haverstraw was having a Caesar salad and a coffee. He said, “It looks beautiful. There were less tables a few years ago. The service is faster. I love it.”

Eugene Glover of Liberty is a fire alarm inspector and travels around three counties. He said the Middletown McDonald’s also had a similar upgrade and he is a big fan of it. The new design is perfect for him, as he brought his laptop and was studying Chinese in preparation for a trip to Hong Kong in August.

“I cover three counties so I don’t always eat here, but I think it’s great. As a laptop user, you need this. I think it’s a larger store, kind of has that old style look by the counter. The fact that you don’t have to search for an [electric] outlet is nice,” he said.

The McDonald’s restaurant was closed for several months during the renovations and reopened in time for Black Friday, 2011.

Town of Clarkstown Alexander Gromack said the new McDonald’s is a boost to the Rt. 59 corridor in that part of Nanuet. “We appreciate improvements to any of our businesses throughout the town,” he said. “We are excited McDonald’s in Nanuet has redeveloped their site adding to the revitalization of the Rt. 59 corridor which includes the new Shops at Nanuet.”

The Nanuet restaurant is operated by the McDonald’s corporation, which in McDonald’s corporate language makes it a McOpCo restaurant. John Santonastasso is the operations manager for McDonald’s McOpCo restaurants in the New York-New Jersey area of the NYC metro area.

Santonastasso said that 10 of the 28 restaurants under his control have had major renovations and updates in the last five years and it’s been a hit with the public. Nearby Nyack may be done over soon as well, he said.

“Customers love the new look. People are in a hurry. Think five years ago versus now. We need to work within the culture and be convenient,” said Santonastasso, a 30-year veteran of the McDonald’s corporation.

In addition to the technology upgrades the new look is also cleaner and more customer friendly.

It is far easier to pay via credit or debit card, just touch your card on a small screen that’s on the counter. No need to wait for an attendant to swipe it. Even the ketchup dispensers are easier to use and less messy.

The outside of the McDonald’s is also more attractive, featuring a stone and brick design and a revamped Drive-Thru with two stations to order from. This is a big deal, Santonastasso said, because approximately 60 to 65 percent of McDonald’s business is done via Drive-Thru these days.

It wasn’t always that way though. Back in the 1950s McDonald’s didn’t even have an inside dining area, let alone a Drive-Thru. Though the chain takes a lot of criticism as being an unhealthy option for food, the restaurant chain has changed with the times and continued to grow and be popular.

McDonald’s has over 31,000 restaurants worldwide and has served hundreds of billions of customers since it was founded in 1940 and officially made corporate in 1961.

McDonald’s meals tend to have high calorie and sodium servings. There is a growing consensus that this should change, at least somewhat. The question for the corporation is how much to change their recipes. The menu has already expanded to include healthier options such as salads, oatmeal and fruit smoothies.

Happy Meals for kids have had apple slices added to them, as well as seen the portion size for French fries get smaller. Low-fat milk options have also been added.

Take a look into the distant future. By 2100 could McDonald’s be considered a far healthier restaurant than it is now? Of course it’s possible, brands change over time, but industry experts are torn over whether it’s the right approach for the chain to take.

Some believe it’s a waste of time and money for McDonald’s to cater to the healthy crowd. But the health crowd appears to be influencing the famous chain. McDonald’s is even featuring a local outreach in Rockland County that will award seed funding to not-for-profits that will “bring nutrition awareness to the community.”

Santonastasso noted another way that McDonald’s has changed with the times is customers can use the website to make meal plans. And McDonald’s facebook website has over 19 million likes.

McDonald’s was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1940. Businessman Ray Kroc joined them in 1954 and purchased the chain in 1961, immediately seizing the opportunity to turn it into an international juggernaut.



Local Not-for-profits can apply online

McDonald’s has launched a new localized outreach initiative known as the McDonald’s Nutrition Network intended to provide funding to local organizations that bring grassroots nutrition programs to the communities they serve.

The company says the program is “an extension of McDonald’s brand-wide commitment to offering improved nutrition choices and comes on the heels of the launch of McDonald’s new national Happy Meal ad campaign to help make nutrition fun for kids.”

The McDonald’s Nutrition Network will award seed funding to select not for profits for projects that bring nutrition awareness to the community. The application is available online at beginning March 27.

In addition to providing seed funding to community organizations, McDonald’s will host MeetUps in the region so that communities can learn more about nutrition, especially when frequenting McDonald’s restaurants (i.e. what meal bundles are under 600 calories, etc.). A registered dietician will be on hand to lead these MeetUps.

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