by Julie Wilson
Heightened awareness surrounding the dangers of commercially processed food is hitting McDonald’s, the number one global fast-food chain, where it hurts, their wallet.
Due to a decline in company sales and an attempt to remain “relevant,” McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson announced plans to provide speedier service, extend breakfast hours and prepare more “high quality,” healthier food.
In order to keep up with the “trends,” McDonald’s has added several new items to their menu including chicken wraps and breakfast sandwiches made with egg whites.
Unsurprisingly, the changes have failed, most likely because people interested in eating healthier food just simply aren’t going to look for it at a fast-food chain, especially McDonald’s.
According to the Oak Brook, Illl.-based McDonald’s, guest counts fell 2 percent globally and 1.6 percent in the U.S. last year. Earnings for the number one fast-food chain reached $1.4 billion for three months ending on Dec. 31, with earnings per share totaling $1.40, just one cent more than Wall Street expected.
“McDonald’s edged up 44 cents to close at $95.32. Since peaking at an all-time high of $103.70 last April, the stock has zigzagged lower and is trending closer to its 52-week low of $92.25 hit last January,” reported CBS Chicago.
The fact that the world’s largest fast-food chain is considering extending their breakfast hours, shows just how badly the company is hurting. Despite persistent consumer requests to extend breakfast past 10:30 a.m. in the past, the chain refused, blaming limited kitchen space and the “logistically impossible” task of offering both the breakfast and lunch menu simultaneously.
“Still, it’s an option the chain is eyeing more seriously at a time when people’s eating habits are changing – particularly those coveted customers in their 20s and 30s known as Millennials,” reported WTTG Fox 5.
Head of McDonald’s USA, Jeff Stratton, stated in an interview, “We know, as an example, that breakfast on the weekend cut off at 10:30 doesn’t go very well,” indicating that extending breakfast hours could increase revenue.
As far as how the company plans to implement the changes is unknown. “Well, we’re just beginning. … We’re just taking a look at it,” said Stratton. McDonald’s representative Lisa McComb admitted that “there are no tests currently in place for the extended breakfast hours,” Fox reported.
McDonald’s executives believe that customers “want foods personalized to their tastes and schedules,” and in response have created an “after midnight menu” that offers a mix of breakfast and lunch items from 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
Another reason why the leader of morning fast food may be considering extending breakfast hours could possibly be in response to the upcoming launch of the Taco Bell breakfast menu, set to begin March 27 and lasting until 11:00 a.m.
“We can turn the breakfast conversation into a two-horse race,” said Taco Bell President Brian Niccol during an interview. He added that they plan to be a “strong No. 2” after McDonald’s, offering breakfast menu items like the “Waffle Taco,” “A.M. Crunchwrap,” “Bacon and Egg Burrito” and a “Sausage Flatbread Melt,” none of which sound like they’d be very successful in terms of meeting the needs of consumers seeking healthier food choices.
AP reports that Starbucks, also competing heavily with fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell, plans to launch “revamped breakfast sandwiches, including a croissant sandwich with ham, cheese and egg” beginning March 4.
U.S. brand and strategy officer for McDonald’s Kevin Newell doesn’t feel threatened by Taco Bell’s plans, insisting, “I think they’re going to find that going into the breakfast business is not like what they’re accustomed to, in terms of marketing.”
Meanwhile, while the fast-food industry struggles, organic food farmers face strict new regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could potentially put them out of business.
Proposed FDA regulations would “curtail many common techniques, such as using house-made fertilizers and irrigating from creeks” as well as tilling cropland with grazing animals, reported the LA Times.
Jim Crawford, the owner of New Morning Farm, a sustainable farm that grows certified organic vegetables, berries and herbs in the mountains of south-central Pennsylvania, was recently approached by an FDA official while loading fresh tomatoes into his truck.
Crawford said the official showed him his badge and informed him that farming techniques that he’s been using for nearly four decades could soon be illegal.
The FDA crackdown reportedly follows pressure on the FDA to regulate farming practices more efficiently after tainted cantaloupes killed 33 last year.
“Many farmers who take part in the locally grown food movement argue that contamination is a problem of industrial-sized farms and that some of the practices the FDA might ban actually make consumers safer,” reported the LA Times.