Follow McDonald’s lead: Give your guests what they want & grow your biz!

For year’s McDonald’s guests have been begging them to serve breakfast all day. There appears to be an appetite for the most important meal of the day, no matter what hour you are ready to eat it. As soon as McDonald’s finally listened to their guests, their sales started growing again. 

The numbers are startling and every operator in the market best take heed. If your guests want it, why the hell don’t you deliver it?

The first restaurant I owned was an anachronism of a joint located in Western Massachusetts. It was called The Anchor Room and that’s what the menu felt like to me — an anchor around my creative neck. Prime rib, North Atlantic scrod (what scrod really is may never be determined) and Chicken Francaise dominated a menu that was rooted in a different century. 

When I took over, it all had to go. So I went about updating and modernizing our menu. I bet you can guess what happened next. 

Yup, we tanked.

It turns out that people actually know what they like and listening to them is a fairly smart idea. I did no market research to find out what my guests wanted. I didn’t have the resources to poll or elicit feedback on the dishes they thought would satisfy them. I just delivered them what I wanted to make. I didn’t listen to even the anecdotal insights I was receiving. And as it happens, my guests wanted those comfort dishes in all their familiar, safe, boring glory.

McDonald's (finally) listened to their customers by offering breakfast items all day. Now they're cashing in.

Lesson learned right? Well not exactly and that’s why we ultimately failed. I allowed my vanity, and not the feedback I was receiving from guests, to control the menu. To the extent that McDonald’s took 44 years from the introduction of breakfast to make it available all day, we can see that even the big guys suffer from the myopia of their own biases. They didn’t want to reconfigure their base operations to accommodate items that weren’t in their core tradition.

Suffice to say, the results of McD’s giving their guests that which they want have been spectacular… over 5% same store sales growth. Which when measured on the billions of dollars in sales McDonald’s does is an astronomical number that will translate into a banner year for their business.

So, what are the lessons for your operation? 

  1. Ask your guests what they want!
  2. Listen to their responses and try out their favorites as specials
  3. Break your own rules. Offer a lunch item at dinner. Make a happy hour dish available during lunch. Etc.
  4. Dump those dishes that you know aren’t selling well, even though they are familiar.
  5. Share the results with your regulars. They are stake holders and will love feeling involved.

Ultimately, we become inured to our own menus and stop seeing them as even changeable. By engaging your guests in the process you get business intelligence, actionable insights and it’s a marketing opportunity.

So, go ahead, serve breakfast all day. What have you got to lose… or gain for that matter?