November 24, 2008

McDonald's Shows the way in France

By David Paulin

France has a problem: Its venerable cafes are going by the wayside.

How come? According to a recent article in the New York Times, it's all due to "changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate."

The Times in particular singles out France's poor economic climate for the quickening demise of its venerable cafes. One red-eyed cafe owner relates: “People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid. They buy a bottle at the supermarket and they drink it at home.”

Yet who do you suppose is doing well all over France? Well, none other than America's most famous restaurant -- McDonald's! Indeed, a recent corporate statement from the all-American food retailer notes:

In Europe, strong performance in the U.K., France and Russia and positive results in nearly all other markets drove a comparable sales increase of 9.8%. Unique menu items and promotions as well as everyday value options continue to resonate with customers and drive results.
In fact, McDonald's says, its strong international sales are fueling much of its growth -- and thus making it possible to increase its dividend a whopping 33 percent!

None of this ought to be very surprising to anybody who has visited France in recent years. On the few times I've been there, I never found the traditional cafes to be all that customer-oriented and cheerful -- things that customers demand these days, whether in America or Europe. Yet just the opposite was the case at places like McDonald's! There, the service was great. The counter workers were efficient and friendly.

Could lousy service and the inability to adopt to their customers' tastes be the real reason for the demise of France's traditional cafes -- and all the bankruptcies being declared by their cheerless and sullen owners? It's an issue the Times does not address; and nor, interestingly, does the Times quote any anti-American types who blame the demise of France's traditional cafes on places like McDonald's. Perhaps nobody in an increasingly conservative France -- nobody with any credibility -- can put forth that argument anymore and be taken seriously.

Here's a suggestion: Have some of McDonald's managers take over publishing responsibilities at the financially troubled New York Times. Maybe they'll be able to put the paper on the road to once again paying its shareholders a decent dividend.

For a discussion, go to The American Thinker and FreeRepublic.

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