Harvard Business School
Rev. September 23, 1996
Whether in Moscow or Massachusetts, the same experience would greet a customer in any of the 12,611 McDonald’s quick-service restaurants worldwide. McDonald’s had distinguished itself in the quick-service industry through its remarkable consistency across all units. To competitors and customers alike, the Golden Arches—the corporate emblem that adorned every restaurant— symbolized pleasant, fast service and tasty, inexpensive food. In the United States alone, McDonald’s served over 20 million customers every day.1 Although such a number testified to the restaurant chain’s success, it also suggested a troubling question for management. With McDonald’s…show more content… Finally, could the lessons learned in the recent collaboration with the EDF help McDonald’s as it sought solutions to the continuing competitive challenge?
The Speedee Service System
Dick and Mac McDonald opened their first drive-in restaurant in 1941, relying on carhops— waiters who went from car to car—to take orders from patrons parked in the restaurant’s large lot. In 1948, the brothers abandoned their popular format and introduced self-service windows, 15-cent hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes. They standardized their preparation methods (in what they termed the “Speedee Service System,”) with exact product specifications and customized equipment. Every hamburger, for example, was prepared with ketchup, mustard, onions, and two pickles; the ketchup was applied through a pump dispenser that required just one squirt for the required amount. Ray Kroc, who held the national marketing rights to the multimixers used in the restaurants to make milk shakes, met the McDonald brothers in 1954. He was so impressed by their restaurant and its potential that he became a national franchise agent for the brothers, and founded the McDonald’s chain. Like the McDonald brothers’ first restaurant in San Bernardino, California, the McDonald’s chain featured a limited menu, low prices, and fast service. From the moment in 1955 when he opened