Why a millennial and a Gen Xer are so happy about McDonald's turnaround

mcdonalds play place exterior

After a quick discussion of Prince’s untimely death, the topic around the office this morning quickly switched to McDonald’s. A big announcement reigned down from the golden arches: Its turnaround efforts are working. Same-store domestic sales are on the rise for the first quarter, thanks in part to all-day breakfast and the McPick 2 value deal. And net income for McD’s rose, too.

The surprising response, though: We cared…a lot. Kelly Killian, the group editor of RB and its sister publication FoodService Director, said she didn’t know why she was so happy about the news. I, too, was shockingly elated that McD’s is rebounding.

While talking it through, we came up with an analogy that explained it best: McDonald’s is that childhood friend that you sometimes poke fun at and talk about behind her back, but you wish her well overall and enjoy seeing her on the occasional visit.

McDonald’s catches a lot of flack. From unions storming the arches on labor issues to health-minded folks lashing out against anything fried and un-green, it’s become the scapegoat for so many bigger issues the restaurant industry is up against. Let’s face it, McDonald’s has a lot of haters.

But here’s the thing. Behind closed doors, I’d hedge my bets that a lot of those naysayers do go to McDonald’s on occasion (even if it is shame-eating in their cars to keep up their anti-Big Mac image). On the drive home, I sometimes hit up the clown. And so does Kelly. Heck, after a particularly stressful afternoon, another coworker left, saying it had to be “a Filet-O-Fish day.” And we all went for different reasons. For me, the millennial, it’s a value-forward, convenient option on those days when I’m swamped and realize it’s 9 p.m. and I still haven’t had dinner. For Kelly, with two kids in the car, it’s a fast option that doesn’t require unbuckling seatbelts and hauling a few children inside a restaurant. For all of us, the big picture idea is the same: It tastes good and it’s easy. We go in knowing what to expect, and McDonald’s does consistently deliver on that solid meal we’re after.

So nasty McDonald’s-hating mommy bloggers be damned. I say good work, CEO Steve Easterbrook. Myself and the Gen Xer next to me appreciate the menu-simplification efforts and a focus on enhancing the core menu—because it’s those menu staples that keep us coming back. We're glad to see the brand we grew up loving—and still appreciate—isn’t on a downward trajectory anymore.

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