Column, 316 words

McDonald’s Takes Its Time Cooking Up a New Menu

The fast-food chain swears it will offer plenty of healthy choices at all its restaurants but not until seven years from now.

Jim Hightower

The appeal of fast food chains isn’t their food: mostly fat, salty, sugary, empty-calorie mush. It’s their speed.

Order, pay, and — bam — your warmed-over burgerpizzachickentaco delight is instantly handed to you.

Yet, for a mega-chain based on speed, McDonald’s has proven to be embarrassingly slow in one key way, leaving it with flat sales and declining appeal. The executives in charge were so stuck on peddling obesity and diabetes for fat profits that they completely missed a mass shift in today’s marketplace: the rise of health-conscious consumers.

The Slow Road to Better Fast Food, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Slow Road to Better Fast Food, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

As a result, McDonald’s has been losing out to Subway, Chipotle, Panera, and other chains that figured out years ago how to cater to the growing leaner-and-greener customer base.

But look out. Here comes the McDonald’s marketing machine with a blur of ads and promotional gimmicks touting “A new global commitment to make a world of difference.” Using endearing pictures of children, the Big Mac chain now claims to be all about fresh veggies, fruit, salads, juices, milk, health, and a fuzzy happiness for all.

The Golden Arches Empire is even teaming up with Bill Clinton to give its PR hype a sheen of sincerity. For an undisclosed splash of cash, the fast-food marketer says it is now “global partners” with the Clinton family’s foundation in its bid to sell more nutritious Happy Meals to the world’s kiddos.

However, the fast-food giant is in no hurry to deliver on this pledge. Claiming that getting healthier foods into its supply chain is hard, the CEO snickered that, “We don’t go down to the grocery stores” to stock up on fruits and veggies.

Well, maybe they should. Doing it the McDonald’s way, he says, will take until 2020 to get the more nutritious stuff into every store in the chain’s 20 largest markets.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org