In addition to researching McDonalds on their products, I sent surveys to students who have classes with me this semester. The purpose of the report is to allow McDonalds to improve their food quality so customers will have better perceptions about their products.
My findings from the survey data I collected shows the majority of the respondents were traditional students. Many students reported McDonalds is unhealthy. Half of those students thought the unhealthiest menu item was burgers. I have found that McDonalds adds too much salt on their fries. McDonalds advertises burgers and other high calorie items much more than healthier, lower calorie items. This report shows most students have a negative perception of McDonalds. They often frequent other fast food restaurants who have a wider variety of healthy items.
It is recommended that McDonalds reduce the amount of salt used on fries and increase make to order practices. McDonalds can shorten the perception gap by advertising healthy products more prominently on menu boards and continuously assuring customers they are committed to offering the best quality food. I would recommend that order-takers ask customers if they want yogurt or a salad if customers order burgers.
Perceptions of McDonalds Food
Topic and Purpose
Customers’ perceptions of McDonalds indicate their burgers, fries, and other high calorie, high fat menu items are unhealthy. They have added healthier food options, such as salads, fruit, and oatmeal, yet they are still focused on either burgers and fries or selling and marketing new sandwiches and value menus. To analyze this problem and recommend solutions, I researched the general and industry environments, and McDonalds internal environment. I additionally researched what products are healthy, which products are the unhealthiest, and then conducted a survey to find out which products customers perceived to be the unhealthiest and healthiest.
Background of Business Environment
Customers are becoming more health conscience by having an increased interest in acquiring nutritional information on restaurant menus or product labeling. Companies have to follow strict food safety guidelines, which include how foods are processed and whether foods are genetically modified.
Customers have a perception of many fast food chains selling poor quality food, so customers may search for better quality food choices. Those options include buying prepared or uncooked food from a store to eat at home or eating at a restaurant that provides good quality foods for customers’ health needs. Many fast food restaurants serve healthy items, yet customers are either under informed about this because burgers are more visible on the menus.
A strength McDonalds has is they are concerned about providing healthier menu options by adding salads and phasing out supersizing. However, their weakness is they hurt their reputation due to customers’ perception of the company’s unhealthy food image. Customers have switched from McDonalds to other fast food chains. customers are aware of the option to purchase salads and fruits, but all they hear about are the burgers and fries (Keen).
Some McDonalds foods which dieticians recommend are the Egg McMuffin, Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich, Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, and the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait. They say customers can customize sandwiches to limit calories and fat content (Smith). The Fruit and Yogurt Parfait is only 150 calories and has 4 grams of protein. The Fruit and Maple Oatmeal has 6 grams of protein, 20% of recommended daily fiber, and only 310 calories. Another healthful item McDonalds offers is a side salad (McDonalds).
According to the nutrition calculator on McDonalds website, the amount of salt on a medium order of fries is 230 mg, or 10% of the recommended daily intake of salt. The Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 780 calories and 45 grams of fat, which is 69% of usual daily intake. A Big Mac has 580 calories and 950 mg of sodium, or 40% of daily salt intake.
In an article on the Business Insider website, Ashley Lutz, who is Business Insider’s chief business editor and reports on restaurants and retail, reported on the 10 unhealthiest items a customer can order at McDonalds. The items that tops the list are the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes, which has 1,150 calories, a 16 ounce McFlurry cup with M&M’s at 930 calories, and a 22 ounce McCafe Shake, which has approximately 830 calories. Lutz reports that the Big Breakfast has about half a day of the recommended calorie intake. She also says that the McCafe Shake has roughly half of the recommended daily intake of fat.
Discussion of Methodology
I sent surveys to students who have classes with me this semester regarding the nature of McDonalds food. I have received 41 responses in total. I used a Google Form for my survey instrument and I e-mailed students a link to the Form. Here are the questions I asked in the survey:
- What is your age demographic?
- Which fast food restaurant do you frequent the most?
- Within a given month, how often do you frequent a McDonalds?
- How healthy/unhealthy do you perceive McDonalds food to be?
- If you said very or somewhat unhealthy, why do you feel this way?
- Are you aware McDonalds has healthy food options?
- Which product category and individual product from that category do you perceive to be unhealthiest and healthiest?
My findings from the survey data I collected shows 37 respondents were ages 18-24. These students frequent a number of fast food restaurants. 8 people frequently go to Wendy’s, 6 students frequent McDonalds, and 4 students each frequent Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, and Taco Bell. 3 people each from this age group regularly go to Chipotle and Subway, 1 person frequents Dunkin’ Donuts, while 4 students never eat at a fast food restaurant. 2 students were between the ages of 25-34, and both of them frequent a McDonalds. 2 respondents were in the 35-49 age demographic. One student regularly goes to a McDonalds, while the other student frequents a Wendy’s. The restaurants frequented among students are depicted in Chart 1 below.
Over a course of a month, 13 students reported never visiting a McDonalds, 19 responded regularly going there once or twice, while 9 people frequented there three to five times. 21 students reported they perceived McDonalds food to be very unhealthy, 16 people said they thought the food was somewhat unhealthy, and 4 people were undecided. This information is depicted in Chart 2 below.
Only 7 students were unaware of healthful foods at McDonalds. Of the 37 students who said they perceive McDonalds food to be very or somewhat healthy, some reasons for the negative perceptions were their food was greasy, fried, and not fresh, while others said their low quality, low grade meat was to blame. A couple students cited the film “Supersize Me” as the reason for their negative perception.
These findings show most students have a negative perception of McDonalds even though they know McDonalds offers healthful foods. They often frequent other fast food restaurants who have a wider variety of healthy items. This problem of students switching to other fast food chains needs to be examined and remedied by management.
More needs to be done to switch customers’ perceptions of McDonalds food from negative to positive. I would recommend that McDonalds reduce the amount of salt used on fries. There is a salt content of 10% of the daily intake for a medium order of fries. They could reduce the amount of salt by not salting the fries every time. Another idea is to decide not to salt the fries and then give customers salt packets for the fries.
Marketers need to constantly advertise and accommodate different demographics who switched to other fast food restaurants. McDonalds has made strides to make their food healthier, but the perception gap is still there. They could update nutritional information on menu boards and advertise healthy products more prominently on menu boards. They could make the food made to order so that the food is hot and fresh. This would increase waiting time, but I feel this would benefit McDonalds in the long-run. I would also recommend that order-takers ask customers if they want yogurt or a salad if customers order burgers.