Friday, July 3, 2009

The French are lovin' it

It wasn't all that long ago that the French were up in arms that their nation was being invaded by McDonald's, the poster company for fast food and poor nutrition. Now, there are approximately 1200 McDonald's in France, including a location a block from the Louvre, and that nation is the company's second most profitable market.

Slate wine columnist Mike Steinberger's story, How McDonald's Conquered France, is a fascinating look at how the global QSR giant accomplished this feat. For instance, McDonald's overcame farmer-driven protests by making the French aware that 70 percent of its ingredients were purchased domestically. It took the time to learn French dining habits (eating is a social event; they prefer to dine in rather than take-out) and designed its locations accordingly. It also acknowledged the food preferences of the French by introducing a host of sandwiches and other products designed especially for their tastes. The end result: McDonalds is serving more than a million customers a day in France.

Steinberger sees the success of McDo, as the French call it, as an indicator of the nation's cultural decline, at least in terms of cuisine, and has written a new book about it, titled Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France. But there is also a bigger business story or a case study here and somebody ought to write that, too. It sounds like McDonald's has figured out how to go global by acting local...for better or worse.

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