5 Theories About Why McDonald’s Is Struggling

Based on recent fieldwork.

McDonald’s announced today that November sales at established (open longer than 13 months) franchises fell by 4.6 percent, more than twice what was expected. Unsurprisingly, shares of the world’s largest restaurant chain followed suit, falling over four percent in morning trading. This much is clear: The endlessly refillable cup is half empty.

Smart, data-and-statistics backed theories about the chain’s plight abound. One is that consumers, especially under 30, care about ingredient-quality and customization over price and speed (see: the growth of Chipotle and a number of burger chains offering superior products); another is that McDonald’s still hasn’t recovered from unconfirmed reports that suppliers in the Pacific Northwest and East Asia used expired meats. Lastly, in a bit of a Chicken-McNugget-or-the-Egg-McMuffin story, one of McDonald’s biggest demographics, low-income workers of the very type McDonald’s employs at minimum wage, aren’t facing any wage growth, and are thus curtailing spending.

More Maxim Videos

Those theories are sound. But, for our part, we’d rather rely on fieldwork. Here are five reasons for McDonalds’ decline based on a trip to McDonalds.

The Filet-o-Fish

It first appeared as an offering for Catholics, who couldn’t eat burgers on Fridays or Lent, and that spirit of inclusion is admirable. The Filet-o-Fish, though, is godless. Square, frozen, and smelling like fisherman’s socks, this menu item casts a piscine pall over its burger brethren. Drop it.

The Henry Ford McFlurry

Not since the Model T has a company offered its customers so few choices. The McFlurry, a bright spot on McDonald’s menu, is available with M&M’s or Oreos. Or? Or? That list should be foot long list of candies, nuts and fruits. This is America, where a man can lose a month of his young, able life choosing between the 300 types of toothpaste on sale at Walgreen’s. Give us Reese’s or give us death you mix-in fascists.

The Ketchup Wells Run Dry

McDonald’s used to provide an important weapon to children embroiled in sibling rivalry: giant vats of ketchup and mustard with pump handles. Having ordered, a child could turn around, fill a flimsy paper cup with ketchup and fling it at a sibling, where it would land with a satisfyingly gooey splat. Or, a customer could mainline a gallon of mustard, no questions asked. Those vats are disappearing and there is only so much you can do with those little sachets. 

Faux-Wood Linoleum and Cracked Burgundy Vinyl

Who designed your interior, my mom’s 1984 Ford Country Squire Wagon? The inside of a Chipotle (exposed brick, finished plywood, stainless steel) looks like the offices of a hip architecture firm; McDonald’s looks like a hangout for homeless people. In Manhattan, that seems increasing apropos.

The 620 Calorie Southwest Salad

The Southwest Salad sounds good and, in theory, it is. But it isn’t good for you, especially if you actually wanted arugula. Here’s what you get: romaine, shredded pepperjack cheese, canned corn and deep-fried tortilla strips. Oh, and dressing. It has more calories than a Big Mac. Who knew anything with special sauce on it could be the “lite” option?

Photos by Ben Stansall / Getty Images