Whether McDonald’s is a casual dinner option for you or a 3 A.M. post-soirée snack, you may have wondered about what goes on on the other side of the drive-thru. Why are their fries so good? What’s up with the seemingly perpetually broken ice cream machine? You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers with 10 things that go on behind the scenes at McDonald’s.
As with every company, things at all levels can go wrong. According to several lawsuits recently filed against McDonald’s, the majority of the issues seem to stem from the work culture. In one class-action lawsuit, a former Michigan McDonald’s restaurant employee claims that she endured several instances of both verbal and physical sexual harassment by a manager. Over two dozen women in twenty cities filed this same complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, some of whom were reprimanded by management after the complaint was issued. McDonald’s has altered its training program in the hopes of counteracting this frequent injustice, but workers argue that it’s not enough. Similarly, lawsuits regarding racial discrimination have also been filed against the fast-food chain, this time at the corporate level. Accusations were directed at the now-former CEO and former president of McDonald’s USA, claiming that they were hostile towards black employees, removed and prohibited black employees from attaining executive positions, fired thirty-one out of thirty-seven black officers, made derogatory comments and threats, and even planned to no longer advertise to black customers. Under the reins of Steve Easterbrook and Chris Kempczinski, the former CEO and president respectively, they proclaimed a message of commitment in regards to striving for equality between the genders, but completely omitted the mention of race. Unfortunately, Kempczinski is still active at the corporate level, now as the CEO of McDonald’s, after replacing Easterbrook who was fired after having a sexual relationship with a subordinate.
9. Unconventional hiring practices
In March of 2019, McDonald’s Canada launched its “Friends Wanted” ad campaign, encouraging friends to apply to work at the franchise together. McDonald’s took a more progressive approach with this campaign, opposing the popular belief among employers that employees who are friends won’t get work done. Clearly targeted to the youth, these ads leverage the idea that young people are more likely to apply for a job (especially one with fewer perks) if it means they can work with their friends. Through its promotion of camaraderie among employees, the brand aims to ameliorate its reputation as a fun and convenient place to work. The recruitment campaign is set up so that each friend submits an individual online application where they make sure to mention their friend’s name in the form. In this way, McDonald’s essentially doubles its list of applicants, while also painting itself as a company that is modern and progressive in its hiring practices. Store owners were to be given digital and print ads, tray liners and crew stickers, as part of the campaign. They also had a day where applicants could go through a quick, virtual hiring process through Snapchat, which they called “Snapplications”. As youth employment rates continue to rise, McDonald’s is vocal about their support of and eagerness to hire young people, as well as progressive in the way they market their brand to the youth.
8. Overtime pay
Before 2012, McDonald’s remained closed on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company stores usually remained open, but any franchise owner was used to closing up shop. That was before these owners were urged to keep stores open on holidays, wracking in thousands of dollars per restaurant, with Christmas being their “largest holiday opportunity”. Although it sucks to be working the holidays, franchise owners are at least allowed to properly accommodate their employees by paying overtime on these days. For workers at company-owned stores, the story is a little different. McDonald’s refuses to pay overtime to employees at these stores, backing up their actions by arguing that these employees volunteer to work on holidays. When you consider the $147.6 billion that McDonald’s is worth, it seems like a pretty insufficient justification for those who rely on picking up all the hours they can get. So, next time you’re thinking of picking up a holiday burger at McDonald’s, perhaps reconsider—or, at the very least, be extra nice to the crew handling your order!
Everyone knows McDonald’s is a huge global business but you may not know just how huge. As of June 2020, McDonald’s tends to approximately 25 million customers per day. They have a total of 14,000 restaurants in the United States alone, and 38,695 total restaurants in 120 different countries as of 2019. They have 1.9 million employees all over the world and hire an average of one million workers in the U.S. each year. Last year, they generated $21 billion in revenue and $6.025 billion in net income. You can view the numbers through a different perspective when they’re written out like this: Every minute, around the world, an average of 75 McDonald’s hamburgers are sold. Every day, it sells nine million pounds of fries globally. Every year, 550 million Big Macs are sold. Most of the fast-food chain’s revenue comes from the U.S. (shocking, we know), generating 32% of its global income. They’ve recently made a few modern steps forward in their restaurants, like the ordering kiosks and their mobile app. It’s interesting to note that the McDonald’s app has 60 million downloads and you can use mobile order at 22,00 restaurants. That’s 22,000 locations where you don’t have to wait in line or stammer about deciding just what it is you want to order. There are actually 7,800 McDonald’s restaurants that offer delivery in 47 countries through its Uber Eats partnership. Bet you can’t guess what the number one menu item ordered through delivery is! (Alright, you probably can.) It’s actually the Double Cheeseburger, which makes perfect sense, considering its popularity and price point.
6. Ownership of Chipotle
In 1998, McDonald’s invested $50 million dollars into Chipotle Mexican Grill. The founder, Steve Ells, had 13 locations in Denver within the first five years that the chain was operating. While he was looking to expand, he managed to get invited to a McDonald’s board meeting where he brought burritos and tacos for the executives to try. McDonald’s apparently loved the food enough to invest, giving Chipotle enough leeway to open 500 new restaurants. McDonald’s’ investment grew to a 90% stake in 2005, which meant that, effectively, McDonald’s owned Chipotle. Because they had so much say in the company, McDee’s also had a lot of… suggestions. They wanted to rename Chipotle Mexican Grill to Chipotle Fresh Mexican Grill in order to compete more with other Mexican chains like Baja Fresh. They also suggested serving breakfast, offering drive-thru service, changing up the menu in different parts of the country (for example, adding barbeque in Kansas City), and letting franchisees own Chipotle restaurants. Chipotle, in turn, ignored most of these. (And it seems like it paid off!) It was in 2006 that McDonald’s decided to sell their shares in the chain back to Chipotle, opting to focus on their own main business instead. At this time, they also pulled away from Donatos Pizza and Boston Market. Had McDonald’s kept their ownership of Chipotle, we’d probably be experiencing a much different version of the Mexican fast-food chain today.
5. Their charity
The Ronald McDonald House Charity was founded in Canada in 1981, with the goal of keeping families of sick children as close to their child as possible. They give families who don’t live near a hospital a place to stay near the one where their child is being treated. Every year, RMHC keeps over 25,000 families close together. They have 15 Ronald McDonald Houses which provide private family bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, laundry facilities, playrooms, education programs, special suites for kids with compromised immune systems, recreational activities, and other support services, including those that accommodate siblings. In these houses, they can sleep, share meals, do laundry, and connect with other families experiencing the same circumstances. Through their 33 programs, RMHC helps save Canadian families $49 million every year in unexpected expenses (such as travel costs, lodging, and food) related to their children’s illness. McDonald’s Canada helps cover roughly 35% of the annual $30.4 million it takes to operate RMHC. Of the many Ronald McDonald Houses, Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, and Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles, there are currently two locations in British Columbia and Yukon, four in Alberta, two in Manitoba, two in New Brunswick, two in Saskatchewan, one in Newfoundland, two in Nova Scotia, thirteen in Ontario, two in Quebec, and two in Prince Edward Island. You can help support the RMHC foundation by purchasing a happy meal or RMHC cookies where part of the proceeds will be donated to the charity. You can also donate in their coin boxes or through their kiosks by rounding up or contributing a dollar.
4. Archways to Opportunity
Archways to Opportunity is a program created by McDonald’s to help those working at a company-owned or independently franchised restaurant further their education. Their programs help eligible employees of participating restaurants improve their English skills and work towards a college degree. They can also help these employees and their immediate families earn a high school diploma through online courses and draw up an education and career plan with advisors. English Under the Arches, one of their programs, was created to help McDonald’s workers improve their English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. They teach phrases most commonly used in the workplace through a blend of virtual and in-person classes. And the best part is that McDonald’s covers the cost of tuition for the course! Archways to Opportunity also helps make furthering post-secondary education accessible by supporting their employees financially while they explore educational opportunities. They also have an online program that helps employees complete their high school diploma over the course of 18 months. Their advising options are also pretty comprehensive. They offer one-on-one virtual advising to individuals who would like assistance developing their education or career plans, completely oriented around their specific needs. Since its launch in 2015, Archways to Opportunity has had nearly 55,000 American enrollments. Over 39,000 restaurant employees were awarded college tuition assistance; over 7,400 people graduated from their English Under the Arches program since 2007; nearly 900 people have graduated from their career online high school program, and they have granted over $100 million in high school and college tuition assistance.
3. Just how much salt is in the fries?
If you’re a fan of McDonald’s, chances are you’re an even bigger fan of their fries. They’re the perfect snack to satiate salty cravings! The only issue is… well, the salt. A small batch of McDonald’s World Famous Fries clocks in at 220 calories, 10 grams of total fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, and 180 milligrams of sodium—which translates to a little under 0.5 grams of salt. If we base our numbers on a daily 2,000 calorie diet, 180 mg of sodium is 8% of your daily intake. To put the number in perspective, it’s about 0.0788 teaspoons of salt. A medium serving has you looking at 260 mg of sodium, which is 11% of your daily intake, and a large takes up 17% of your daily percentage values at 400 mg of sodium. That’s 0.1750 teaspoons. McDonald’s says its serving was determined based on consumer opinion, claiming that extensive research has shown that the majority of customers prefer a “light sprinkling of salt on their French Fries”. If you find the fries too salty, however, you also have the option to order them without salt. Overall, the amount of salt on McDonald’s French fries isn’t too different from fries at any other fast-food chain, or even homemade fries! What you won’t find in homemade fries are the fourteen ingredients McDonald’s uses—aside from potatoes and salt, of course. The restaurant’s fries are fried in canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and hydrogenated soybean oil; and comprise a list of other ingredients such as natural beef flavoring, hydrolyzed wheat (which means these fries are not gluten-free), hydrolyzed milk, citric acid, dimethylpolysiloxane (oh boy…), dextrose (a sweetening additive), sodium acid pyrophosphate (for color), and, finally, TBHQ (a preservative). It’s also worth noting that McDonald’s fries, freezes, and then re-fries their potatoes slices, so a lot of that oil is being used twice. Maybe salt is not the problem, here…
2. Why’s the ice cream machine always broken?
Does it ever feel like every time you’re craving a McFlurry, their ice cream machine is never working? If the memes circulating around social media were anything to go by, you’re not alone. Turns out, there’s actually a reason for that—and, no, it’s not because the employees are lazy. According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s requires that their ice cream machines undergo a four-hour-long nightly cleaning cycle. So, the machines aren’t actually broken (for the most part), they’re just out of service for a little bit while they’re being cleaned. One can imagine that once they’ve been cleaned for the night, the employees probably won’t be willing to use it again, at least not the same day. In 2017, McDonald’s announced that it would be replacing the machines due to a large volume of consumer complaints about the frequent unavailability of the restaurant’s cold treats. The newer machines are supposed to have fewer parts and, by extension, be easier to sanitize. However, replacing every single ice cream machine in every single McDonald’s is evidently going to be a pretty lengthy process. And that doesn’t account for all the times the ice cream machine does break. Apparently, the machine isn’t super reliable to begin with, but it also has visually similar mixes for McFlurries and milkshakes. When they inevitably get poured in the wrong place, the machine tends to shut down. The time it takes to repair the machine each time can mean no ice cream at Mickey D’s for up to a day or two.
1. McDonald’s restaurants are a community
It goes without saying that McDonald’s is an enormous brand, but what you might not know is that they still look out for the little guy. They offer flexible working hours for students or parents, and are generally accommodating to all ages and all situations. Although McDonald’s is a global franchise, each individual restaurant isn’t managed directly from the top. It’s run by a local franchise owner, who must work at McDonald’s for a whole year filling the shoes of every role until they’re allowed to pitch for their store. This means that the owner of every restaurant really knows and understands their clientele and they’re passionate when it comes to building up or making changes to their store.