As profits fall, McDonald’s France successfully changes the McFormula.  While profits slump in the rest of the world, the French are taking to McDonald’s like gourmets to foie gras. The secret to this success is that McDonald’s is abandoning long cherished traditions to appeal to the more discerning French diner. This approach has been so successful that the French-style McDonald’s may soon make an appearance in the US. 

McDonald’s recently admitted to its first ever corporate loss, and will close some 175 outlets worldwide. Yet in one unexpected corner of the globe, McDonald’s is going from strength to strength. The French are taking to the “le Big Mac” in ever-increasing numbers.  At first sight, this seems like a reversal of the natural order. Are the French not ever vigilant against the encroaching tide of American cultural imperialism? José Bové won mass approbation by demolishing a partially built McDonald’s in 1994 and yet a new McDonald’s opens in France every six days.

McDonald’s France has changed its approach and made the fastfood concept more palatable to the French. Customers are encouraged to linger over their meal by a more tasteful decor and music video walls. The menu now includes traditional French snacks such as the Croque Monsieur. The avowed goal is to turn McDonald’s into a destination restaurant – a far cry from the high customer turnover drive-throughs of the US. Advertising also plays a vital role. McDonald’s France directly addresses the French defensiveness against creeping American influences in its advertising campaigns and stresses the differences between French and American McDonald’s.

Instead of McDonald’s colonising the French, it seems that the French have colonised McDonald’s. McDonald’s France has broken away from the uniformity that served McDonald’s so well, for so long on a global basis.  National requirements for local produce, traditional French food and a slower pace of life have been successfully catered for. The French spend over twice as much per visit to McDonald’s than Americans and now many French ideas are being considered for US outlets. Cultural Imperialism can cut both ways.

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