There is a daily drumbeat of media attention to the Build-A-Burger test being
conducted in Southern California. The press loves this story because it's a chance
to write about their fellow millennials wanting to “Have it Their Way”.
But too much attention to a test product can be a very bad thing for McDonald’s.
If the Build-A-Burger test does not get expanded nationally it will be a checkmark
in management's loss column and the headline will be, “Don Thompson fails with
When a product or concept test gets a lot of press it’s no longer a test, it becomes
a forgone conclusion.
This might be similar to the testing of McCafe. Oak Brook announced a challenge
to Starbucks before the testing of espresso coffee drinks. The test was conducted
in the state of Michigan and showed very little customer acceptance. But, Oak Brook
and a few McDonald’s Operators lied to the rest of the country about the results of
the test and espresso drinks went national in the spring of 2009. That year saw the
lowest sales increase of all the Skinner years because McDonald’s Operators wasted
their advertising budgets on espresso drinks instead of advertising food that sells.
The years 2007 and 2008 had been rough for Starbucks but the many millions spent
advertising McCafe gave them a boost in 2009 and they've been on a roll since.
Of course, trying to reinvent the McDonald’s operation is far more dangerous than
having an idle espresso machine. Especially when the people making the reinvention
decisions have never run a McDonald’s restaurant.
Here's today's Bloomberg article on Build-A-Burger