While fishing for topics to address in this blog, a friend inquired about the calorie-counts that are now displayed on the menu boards. “It’s like a slap in the face,” said Friend, “we all know the food’s bad for us. You don’t have to rub it in.” Her inquisitive eyes were desperately trying to figure out why we started taking “extra measures” to make sure she felt bad about herself. As I sat there trying to formulate an answer, I almost talked myself into evading the topic altogether. What’s the point? People are going to think what they want about McDonald’s no matter what I say. Turning towards her and mustering up whatever intelligence I could find during an end-of-the-day class, I said something like, “I think they just want to get it out in the open, you know, so there’s no secrets.”
At work later that day, I thought about the answer I gave Friend. Unhappy about my response, I knew it had to be about more than exposing “secrets.” I looked up at the menu board behind the front counter and spent some time studying it. The small but readable letters under the Angus Bacon-and-Cheese sandwich announced: 790 Calories. Want to make it a large Extra Value meal? 1,290 Calories. Keep in mind—this doesn’t include the soft drink. If you want a large Coke (we sell more Coke than any other soft drink), that will put you back another 310 calories. For a total of 1,600 calories, the meal that looked so good at first glance is now sounding pretty scary.
I get where Friend is coming from. We have this idea in our heads of what we want (“Mmm, bacon, angussss, cheeeeeeeese”). Once that idea is ruffled (“Calories? Who put that there? Fat? Whaaa?”), we get upset and annoyed by the unwelcome change. I did a little research on this new menu board. Obama health care requires by law that chains with more than twenty restaurants have to include calorie-counts on their menu boards. There have been various predictions and speculations about what would happen to customers’ eating habits. The way I see it, regular customers who stop at McDonald’s every day are not likely to change their habits. At this point, they’re not even looking at the menu. They know what they want. Even if they were to notice the calorie-count on their beloved Double-Quarter-Pounder-with-Cheese, the bond they have with that sandwich is not so easily broken. I’m pretty sure they would still order it if a blinking red sign said, “WARNING. MAY CAUSE EXPLOSION UPON INGESTION.”
Critics shouldn’t worry about losing business because of this new “disclose-all” policy. Seasoned customers will still order what they love, and new customers will probably lean toward healthier options. Bottom line, we give out a little bit of uncomfortable information, and here’s the good stuff we get in return: proven customer loyalty, spotlight on our healthier food items, and new customers willing to try these choices. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.