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How McDonald’s got its mojo back

McDonald’s major goal for 2017? To win back customers and regain the more than 500 million visits lost in the last five years. And the golden arches is fighting back with a vengeance, as we reveal.

When Brit Steve Easterbrook took the reigns as CEO in March 2015, McDonald’s sales were falling in its critical home market and people were opting for healthier alternatives. Two years into his leadership, US sales are rising and McDonald’s earnings before interest and tax has increased by 3.4 percentage points.

Easterbrook has big plans, from modernizing restaurants for the digital era, to appeal to younger customers and families thanks to table service and self-service kiosks, and selling off Asian operations.

McDonald's saw its share prices soar to a record high of $144.52 (£112.34) in May 2017, and surpassed global sales expectations with a 4% increase. The company received a hugely positive reaction to its All-Day Breakfast menu in the US. Meanwhile, same-store sales increased by 5.7% in the last three months of 2015. The jump was the largest the company reported in almost four years, beating competitors by 3.1% thanks to promotions like Monopoly.

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An all-day McDonald’s breakfast has been a reality since 2015, and since the launch sales soared as fast food fans lapped up McGriddles, pancakes and McMuffins galore. The all-day selection has pushed sales up and up, and people elsewhere in the world are hoping to see the all-day McGoodness in their restaurants soon.

Easterbrook has implemented a number of changes. The company cut several items from its complicated US menu in an effort to make ordering simple, including the Deluxe Quarter Pounder burger, the honey mustard and chipotle barbecue snack wraps and six varieties of chicken sandwiches.

Launched 8 years ago, McDonald's is hoping to challenge other coffee chain with its McCafe

New and improved recipes

McDonald’s is making a major change to one of its most iconic burgers too. Quarter Pounder burgers will be made from fresh beef instead of frozen beef in most restaurants by the middle of 2018.

They say good things come in threes, and McDonald’s agrees. The latest addition to the McDonald’s family is its new Signature Crafted Recipes menu which launched in the US in May. Think of the new collection as a “mix-and match game” where you can choose a bun, patty (beef, crispy chicken or grilled chicken) and one of three topping combos: Pico Guacamole; Sweet BBQ bacon; Maple Bacon Dijon (pictured). So much choice, yet so little time.

Cue an eye-catching gimmick to get people talking and the three new sandwiches selling. Meet the frork, the “supremely superfluous” new product which graced some US restaurants in a clever marketing campaign. The red silicone utensil has three holes to insert your French fries to create edible “prongs.” The frork scoops up condiments that might’ve fallen out one of your burgers too.

In the UK, restaurants will be serving up McDonald’s new Signature Collection. The made-to-order Michelin chef-approved thicker gourmet burgers include The BBQ, The Classic and The Spicy.

McDonald’s has worked on reinventing some old favourites like the classic Egg McMuffin. The muffin features a fresh-cracked egg, butter instead of margarine, improved lean Canadian bacon and a return to the original English muffin recipe. McDonald’s also announced its long-term commitment to sourcing cage-free eggs.

If there’s one thing McDonald’s does better than the rest of its competitors, it’s golden, perfectly-salted fries. Drawing on that love, the company is giving the old favorite a makeover by tossing them in a puree mix of chopped Gilroy garlic, olive oil, parmesan, parsley and salt. The trial, which was only in select US stores, was so successful many locations ran out of garlic.

While McDonald’s doesn’t want to stop being creative and coming up with new flavours and meals, instead of overcrowding the menu it's choosing to introduce more “limited time only” items. For example, to celebrate National Strawberry Month in the US, it created a strawberry orange mango smoothie and hand prepared strawberry lemonades. All berries will be sourced locally from California.

Eight years after it debuted in the US, McCafé will be reintroduced in-stores. McDonald’s hopes to challenge Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in a bid back to win over the booming coffee crowd. The new McCafé campaign will include special deals, more seasonal beverages, and increased marketing of the coffee rewards program.

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Going digital

If you’ve been in a McDonald’s recently, you may have noticed the added technology in some restaurants. To order, you can either speak to an employee at the counter, or order at shiny new self-service machines. The touch-screen technology is supposed to speed up ordering time and allow customers more variety to customize their food.

Touch-screen kiosks are here to serve all your requirements, especially when it comes down to your burger preferences. Thanks to the “Create Your Taste” custom-burger option, the possibilities are endless. You can choose the make-up of your custom burger, including speciality sauces, unique toppings and multiple bun options.

Delivery is already available in Japan and other Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries

McDonald’s has delivery services in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, but the fast food chain is yet to dominate the delivery world. To capitalize on the growing public demand, McDonald’s is expanding its service in America and will launch in the UK in June.

Happy staff, happy store

In April 2017, McDonald’s launched a new uniform for US workers, hoping to “bridge the gap between fashion and function”. In theory, neutral shades of grey shouldn’t cause offence, but Twitter users had other ideas. Employees have been compared to “Star Wars” bad guys, and tributes in the “Hunger Games” franchise. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone McDonald’s!

To keep its workforce happy, McDonald’s has given many employees the chance to switch from zero hours to permanent contracts in line with the average hours per week they work, giving them the choice from four up to 35 hours a week. Ensuring staff feel secure in their work can only boost morale.

In previous years, the eatery had been plagued by bad press about low wages, but Easterbrook is trying to improve that by announcing a 10% pay rise for the 90,000 people who work in outlets directly owned by the company in the US. This has taken their hourly minimum wage to $9.90 (£7.68) an hour, which is considerably higher than the legal minimum of $7.95 (£6.17).

McDonald’s Next launched in Hong Kong in 2016, which boasts a sleek stainless steel fit-out and offers table service after 6pm. Customers can still get their burger and fries fix but they can also grab a healthy salad. The salad bar consists of 19 different ingredients including couscous and quinoa.

In 2016, the fast food chain began rolling out table service across its American restaurants, where customers could place their orders and choose to pick up their food to-go or have meals served to them at tables. This has proven so popular, UK branches in places such as Southampton and Liverpool have since offered the service too, with 400 revamped restaurants set to be rolled out in the UK.

And table service is going to feature in many more restaurants soon. The new and improved eateries will allow customers to order their meals via a self-service digital kiosk, take a seat and wait for the meals to be delivered to their table. It’s also multi-lingual so you can place your order in Chinese, Japanese or even Russian.

Touch-screen kiosks are being rolled out across new, redesigned McDonald's restaurants

Key partnerships

McDonald’s teamed up with equally recognizable brand Coca-Cola and music app SHAZAM to launch the Rise Up ESSENCE Festival in 2016. This year, the festival will feature John Legend, Mary J Blige, Chance The Rapper, Diana Ross and many more famous names.

McDonald’s took another leaf out of its competitors' book by launching its first loyalty program on its smartphone app. The program, still in its early stages, will offer customers a free cup of coffee for every five bought at one of its restaurants. The app will also give McDonald’s valuable data by tracking customer purchases and learning their menu preferences.

While the brand has been global for many years, there are surprisingly still some countries that haven’t experienced the joy of a Big Mac. In March 2016, the chain opened its first McDonald’s in Kazakhstan. Located in the nation’s capital city of Astana, opening day saw long crowds winding down the street with customers keen to get a taste of what the golden arches have to offer.

Easterbrook is clearly turning McDonald’s around and the company is rewarding him for it. According to McDonald’s Corp, the CEO took home $15.4 million (£12m) in total compensation in 2016 as the company started to boom again. That's a 94% increase from 2015, when he received $7.9 million (£6.1m). That’s a lot of Happy Meals.

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