Marketplace Scratch Pad

Getting lots of Mc-Lovin’

Scott Jagow Feb 18, 2009

Does it bother you that the big winners in this recession are Wal-Mart and McDonald’s? Yesterday, Wal-Mart said sales set a record last quarter, and today, Mickey D’s said it plans to open 500 new stores in China. No one’s expanding like that in this economy! A lot of people loathe these companies, but they are very good at what they do.

McDonald’s has always aggressively expanded when the economy goes bad, and both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart gain customers in recessionary times. When cheap is the priority over quality, as it may be for a lot of people right now, these well-branded companies stand out. In China, McDonald’s just rolled out its “best-ever value meal combination.” Prices on some items were cut to levels not seen in a decade. Few companies can offer that kind of value without putting themselves in serious jeopardy.

What amazes me is their global reach and appeal, McDonald’s in particular. Is it just a fact that all human beings love McDonald’s french fries? When it expands to a new country, McDonald’s seems to morph into whatever that country wants it to be. So if the Chinese love Filet-O-Fish (which apparently they do), McDonald’s turns Filet-O-Fish into China’s Big Mac. In China, McDonald’s also has the Mala Pork Burger, and they make pizza! Of course, the pizza is called a McPuff.

In Quebec, McDonald’s offers the Poutine, which is — get this — french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy. In parts of New England, you can get a McLobster. Around Chesapeake Bay, you can order a McCrab. In Hawaii, spam. At some McDonald’s in Wal-Mart stores, they sell popcorn and soft pretzels. Such collusion.

In some countries, McDonald’s has started offering 24-hour delivery. Seriously, you can call up at 4 am and get a McPuff delivered right to your door.

The one thing you can’t get anywhere is a Hulaburger. That was an invention from Ray Kroc himself, test-marketed in 1963. It didn’t go over so well. It was a “burger” with a pineapple instead of meat. It was designed for Roman Catholics who didn’t eat meat on Fridays during lent.

McDonald’s never stops reaching.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.