McDonald's keeps the happy in Happy Meals

A photo illustration of a Happy Meal at McDonald's on Nov. 3, 2010 in San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: And now, our Marketplace business word of the day: McSmarter.

Last year, San Francisco passed a law meant to give the Happy Meal a body blow. It bans fast food restaurants from including toys in kids' meals that don't meet certain nutritional guidelines. Free toys, I should say.

That is where the McSmarter comes in. The no-free-toys law takes effect tomorrow, the same day McDonald's in San Francisco will start charging a dime to include a toy with those mini bags of fries and chicken nuggets. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports.


Jennifer Collins: You could say McDonald's found a loophole big enough to drive a burger-mobile through.

Sara Senatore is a restaurant analyst with Sanford Bernstein in New York, as you'll hear.

Sara Senatore: McDonald's is masterful at evolving with not only the customer demand, but also the operating environment.

Rajiv Bhatia is with the San Francisco Health Department. He's looking at McDonald's shrewd stepping of the law as a teachable moment.

Rajiv Bhatia: We need to learn from how industry reacts to it to revisit it and get it to achieve its purpose.

Bhatia says didn't put a price tag on passing and implementing the law. Darren Tristano is with food industry consultant Technomic.

Darren Tristano: You know, it could have been tens of thousands in research just to try to understand the impact.

As for the impact on McDonald's, there won't be one -- it's donating the toy money to the Ronald McDonald House.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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