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Tarnished Golden Arches?

I’m worried about McDonald’s. The pronouncements and decisions flowing out of headquarters in recent months have been real head-scratchers, from the ouster of the ketchup-blooded Jan Fields to the recent observation from CEO Don Thompson that Europeans control their weight through walking.

The latter was an addendum to Thompson’s revelation that he’s lost 20 pounds while still eating McDonald’s food everyday. If see a connection between those two dots, let me know, because I’m shaky on the relevance, and certainly the importance.

Then there was Thompson’s bombshell pronouncement that salads, which currently account for 2 to 3 percent of McDonald’s sales, will never be a major business driver. Huh? So why all that marketing and advertising effort in recent years to change the impression that McDonald’s is all about burgers, fries and shakes? Aren’t better-for-you products a major part of that effort, and aren’t salads among the key new options?

That surprise followed Thompson’s dressing down by a 9-year-old at McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting. The cute little grade-schooler implored the board to stop advertising to her, generating headlines that made the chain sound as if it were kicking puppies. Many riffed on the idea that Thompson was defending Ronald McDonald against a youngster who knew better than to fall for a shill in clown’s clothing.

That kerfuffle erupted after management signaled that it might have to emphasize deals again to hold market share—right around the time it introduced a new super-premium, highly priced wrap.

Thompson’s predecessor, Jim Skinner, ardently pursued a turnaround and growth program called the Plan to Win. It’s familiar to just about everyone within the chain, probably because it worked so well. Indeed, it’s the sort of credo that should be studied in business schools.

Maybe it should be studied a little more in McDonald’s headquarters. Perhaps every day.

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