It wasn’t pretty when Walmart underwent an identity crisis. Take that back. Actually, it was pretty—neat, orderly, attractive—in terms of the consumer shopping experience when Walmart began emptying overflowing store shelves and pushed more upscale merchandise. What wasn’t pretty was the backlash among blue-collar shoppers who felt Walmart had sold them out in the hopes of wooing trendier, richer clientele. And the sharp decline in sales wasn’t pretty either, which is why Walmart recently went old-school and renewed its focus first and foremost on low prices. Now, McDonald’s is undergoing an upscale facelift that seems a lot like Walmart’s failed redesign.
Smoothies and cappuccinos are already on McDonald’s menus. And now, as USA Today reports, the goal of McDonald’s restaurants is to create a more modern, more upscale look and feel that tells diners this place is about more than just burgers, nuggets, and fries. With muted earth tones replacing the old neon yellow and orange, and with wood tables subbed in for the cheap, chintzy, and cheesy fiberglass models, McDonald’s may seem more like Starbucks, or even an Apple store, than they do a garish vintage ’80s McDonald’s joint. McDonald’s wants the mood to be more class food than fast food.
Will the shift work? Only time will tell. One expert observer weighs in with USA Today:
“Flashy decor may not sit well with Middle America,” warns Scott Hume, editor of the restaurant industry blog BurgerBusiness. “The trick is to go techno without going Jetsons.”
Once McDonald’s starts serving burgers in pill format, then you know the chain is in serious trouble.