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Gordon also noted that the proposed Dollar Menu & More “may not address the complicated-kitchen matter,” as franchisees cite a cluttered menu and cluttered operations as points of contention with McDonald’s Corp.

In a few markets around the country, some McDonald’s operators are testing a “high-density kitchen” setup with a prep table accompanied by a refrigerated rail on top that has more than 30 slots for holding toppings, sauces and ingredients for newer flavors of burgers and chicken sandwiches.

A memorandum obtained by Nation’s Restaurant News, written by a franchisee representing fellow owner-operators at a June meeting of the National Leadership Council of McDonald’s franchisees, said negotiations with equipment suppliers for the high-density kitchens “have already generated substantial cost savings.”

The memo also said that nine subcommittees within the National Leadership Council were engaged in gathering operator feedback on high-density kitchens, but the document did not indicate how many franchisees or how many restaurants were currently testing the equipment.

As of press time, McDonald’s had not responded to an inquiry of whether the high-density kitchen was tested along with the Dollar Menu & More offering in the menu’s test markets of Fresno, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Memphis, Tenn.; Columbia, S.C.; and the combined market of Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.

Gordon noted that retrofitting McDonald’s kitchens with high-density capabilities would not be easy, but ultimately, the menu should drive the kitchen and not the other way around. “I think McDonald’s would be trying to make the kitchen work with what works for the consumer,” he said. “Consumer desires and store profitability are the two beginning factors, which then drive the menu, which then drive the physical plant.”

Yet Adams of Franchise Equity Group added that, while a high-density kitchen may enable franchisees to execute more varieties of burgers and sandwiches, what he calls McDonald’s “high-density menu” would remain an operational problem for franchisees if the chain does not rationalize its offerings further.

“[The company] decides what the McDonald’s system is; the franchisees don’t,” he said. “If they say the menu is going to expand exponentially, then the menu will expand until the restaurants explode. I’d argue that’s already happened, and that has been the problem with sales.”

McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN