BOB MOON: The world’s biggest restaurant chain is set to report quarterly earnings tomorrow. McDonald’s has been enjoying strong sales, with much of its growth lately overseas.Business is booming even in that land of gastronomic excellence. France.
Now the French still love their truffles and fine wines.But they’re increasingly becoming connoisseurs of variations on the Big Mac. Along with some fries, of course, which they don’t really call “french” fries over there.As Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris, McDonald’s is succeeding by catering to the marketplace.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: On the Champs Elysees, the restaurant the French love to hate — known here as “Macdo”— is packed with a noontime crowd. France is one of McDonald’s top earners, serving 1.5 million customers a year in just over 1,000 restaurants.
Eric Gravier is Vice President of McDonald’s France. He says the chain owes its success partly to adapting to French sensibilities and tastes. Like offering burgers with hot regional cheeses in the winter.
ERIC GRAVIER: All those kind of cheese which are coming mostly from the alps and from the mountains. They’re like a fondue, tartiflette, raclette. We are not trying to copy, we are just treating it the hamburger way and the American way, but it’s a way to say we are local as well.
McDonald’s France has recently come up with another way to go native. It’s called the McCafe, and McDonalds plans to open 250 of them across the country in the next two years. Customers will be able to engage in a typically French pastime: sitting for hours over a dark coffee and a croissant. But at a lower price.
At a pilot McCafe being tested here on the Champs Elysees, I order a latte machiatto, the equivalent of my usual café au lait. At tables outside on the sidewalk, McDonald’s and McCafe patrons alike soak up the springtime sun and a stunning view of the Arc de Triomphe.
German tourist Gudrun Frank says she and her friends wouldn’t normally be found at a McDonald’s.
GURDRUN FRANK: It’s just because we are walking here and we were looking for a chance to have coffee. And that’s a great surprise, I think that we’ll enjoy that. Yes, yes, I think it’s a good idea, McCafe. Yeah.
McDonald’s admits the French café culture won’t be an easy one to crack, but it hopes to attract coffee drinkers like Gudrun Frank — even luring them away from that other American parvenue, Starbucks.
FRANK: It’s good, I can recommend it to your listeners in the States over there. Hahaha.
For Marketplace, I’m Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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