McDonald’s Franchisees Not Pleased About Improving Customer Service While Selling More Discount Food

Between increasing (and tastier) competition, a general drop in the number of younger people eating out, and corporate push to sell more lower-margin menu items, the last thing some McDonald’s franchisees want to hear about is improving customer service.

The folks at Janney Capital Markets recently surveyed a handful of Golden Arches franchise owners and found what seems to be a growing level of discontent.

“We have more complicated items, with more elements coming from the (distribution center), more equipment coming from suppliers so everyone else is making more money sending us more ‘stuff’ and we are expected to deliver a product that takes 55 seconds on the best day in less than that, do it consistently and with a smile on our face,” one franchisee vents. “There’s little to smile about.”

Last week, it was revealed that McDonald’s corporate is demanding a higher quality of service from its employees, with customers complaining about “chaotic” restaurants and “unprofessional” workers.

But at the same time, the chain has been stressing more complicated menu items at prices franchisees say are too low.

“Every quarter we sell a smaller percentage of our menu at a full (and profitable) price,” said another franchisee in the Janney survey.

The franchisees were asked to rank their relationship with McDonald’s corporate on a scale of 0-5, with zero being awful and five being excellent. The overall result was a 1.93, which does not bode well for a franchise-HQ love-affair.

Given that the franchisees in the survey only represent 180 stores of the approximately 14,000 in the U.S., so we don’t know if this sentiment is universal or just indicative of a few disgruntled owners.

However, independent franchisees do run around 9 out of 10 McDonald’s in America. So if this sampling is indeed an indicator of how most franchisees feel, we could be in for a rather public spat like the legal feud between KFC franchisees and their corporate overlords over the direction of the company’s marketing and advertising.

“You have no choice in certain situations,” the president of the American Franchisee Association in Chicago tells Crain’s Chicago Business about the pressure felt by a restaurant franchisee. “They signed an agreement that says they’ll do whatever management says.”