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Fascinating story in The New York Times earlier this week in which the newspaper interviewed a number of restaurant and management experts to find out how they would fix McDonald’s, a company that is suffering from slowed growth, customer defections and a tarnished image. Among the comments:

  • Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef, said to improve the product, especially the hamburgers. (The fries are just fine the way they are.) Puck said that the company shouldn’t be so concerned about branching out into chicken sandwiches and the like. Just use better beef and better rolls, and improve the cooking methods. “They are a burger house, and they have to do a better burger,” he said.

  • Alex M. Susskind, an assistant professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, said that McDonald’s should expand aggressively into new brands such as Chipolte, and should the core franchise into new venues, like Home Depot. And, he said, it shouldn’t worry about serving healthier food. “If I want a healthy meal I'll have steamed vegetables at home,” he said. He also suggested that the company phase out the “Made For You” program that provides made-to-order product.

  • Allen J. Bernstein, chairman, the Morton's Restaurant Group, and a former Wendy's franchisee, suggested that the company give greater emphasis to the “Made For You” program, and cut back on the menu options. He also suggested that the company close a lot of locations, and grow at a slower pace, emphasizing food quality.

  • Michael Hammer , a management consultant and author of "The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade,” said that “maybe McDonald's should run corporate and school cafeterias, hospital food services, all sorts of food service operations…”

KC's View:
No wonder Mickey D’s is confused…all this high-priced talent, and not much agreement on what the company should do.

While we agree with Puck’s recommendation that McDonald’s should make a better burger, there’s a risk there. Our kids like the burgers the way they are…and if they were different, they might not appeal to that demographic.

McDonald’s is faced with both business problems and food problems. It is unlikely that one fix will solve both.