June 5, 2014

Who Eats at McDonald's?

After I had my daughter, I vowed to eat as little fast food as possible. I binged on double cheeseburgers during pregnancy in an attempt to gain weight and by the end, was so disgusted. I very,  very rarely eat fast food and it's usually limited to a plain cheeseburger. No fries, no shakes, no nuggets. It's not that it doesn't taste yummy. I just can't stomach it anymore.

My daughter doesn't eat a lot of fast food either. We probably visit McDonald's once every other month. She'll get a Happy Meal, enjoy the toy more than the food, and complain there aren't enough fries for her ketchup, haha.

Since we now go so rarely, I haven't seen the styling of McDonald's change in a slow evolution. Instead, like a relative you see once a year, it was like McDonald's from my childhood to this weird new, super mod McDonald's aimed at what I think is business people who watch Fox News and read USA Today.

I don't mind the trendy look. It gives a cleaner feeling to the space, which is pretty important to me. But they're kind of failing in the bathroom.

McDonald's is still a place for families and for parents to take their children for a hurried meal between soccer practice and piano lessons. The food is still geared to children and families, yet the bathroom in our nearby McDonald's isn't even remotely designed for a family or children.

I wish I'd taken pictures, but basically the toilets automatically flush. That's all well and good, and might have some cost savings, but it scares the crap out of a four-year-old who finds flushing loud and when not initiated by her, scary.

The sinks are too high for children. A little step stool would help here. I've seen that at some restaurants who support their child-customers. I could even be okay with the high sinks and no stool but the faucets are automatic sensor types. Unless your hands are in just the right place, you get no water. It's super difficult to line up my daughter's hands under the faucet while I'm trying to hold her up (she's really too big for that now). I can't keep the water running long enough to try and shift the water from my cupped hands to hers, so that's not an option either.

Usually, in these situations, I'll grab a paper towel and wet it to rinse off the soap, but at this McDonald's there are no paper towel dispensers, only loud hand dryers. I've watched many children freak at the sound of those super loud dryers. It's not much fun to be in the bathroom while adults spend a really long time running the dryer, trying to get all the water off their hands while children waiting to use the toilet or sink cover their ears and whine at the noise.

So, I guess my question is, who is the McDonald's customer now? I think they're going for a customer that isn't common in my part of town - the rushed 8-5 businessperson. It's a family area. Suburban. There isn't a big lunchtime business crowd, just a lot of families looking for a quick meal.

The hygiene of paper towels vs hand dryers is still highly debated. The Washington Post published a piece on the hand dryer and paper towel debate in 2012, noting a review by Mayo Clinic showing paper towels being the winner. In the end, once the restaurant owner has made back the investment in the dryer system, it is probably cheaper to maintain a couple of dryers than deal with an ever-depleting stock of paper towels. However, customer service has a huge impact on the bottom line and if a company cares so much about the bottom line that they cut paper costs in a bathroom (note - while spending a fortune on upgraded fixtures and countertops), where else are they cutting costs that impacts their customer?

This is a heated issue and I'm not saying there's a right solution. But for a fast food restaurant in a family demographic area, lack of paper towels, automatic faucets, and self-flushing toilets is a real hassle.

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