Fast-food chains need to reinvent themselves if they want to survive

McDonald’s is one of the most popular brands in the world. We all loved it at one point in our lives, whether it was when we were kids begging for it every time our parents drove by or when we were in high school going there to relax every Friday. Even now, some of us still go after those long nights of partying. However, the love we once had for fast-food chains is diminishing, and their brand images are being tarnished.

The negative health effects of fast food have become public knowledge. There are a plethora of documentaries, videos and articles exposing the unfavorable business practices that have become prominent within the industry. Fast-food chains are aware of this negative publicity, and, as a result, they are pulling out all the tricks up their sleeves in order to win back the hearts and stomachs of consumers.

After some struggles in the past, McDonald’s seems to be taking a turn for the better. They added a new menu, promotions, delivery services, added back old items and even began removing artificial ingredients from their foods. It’s a good start, but this is not enough.

Looking back in time, America was known for their tasty food that would often come in huge portions. There is no doubt that fast-food chains played a role in creating this idea, but along with it came stereotypes. In other countries, people joke about Americans, saying that they are fat, lazy and eat too much.

It’s not hard to see why they make these jokes when one compares the food culture of the United States with that of other countries. In 2015, the United States ranked  noticeably high on the charts for countries with the highest number of obesity with 37.9 percent for men and 41.5 percent for women.

But younger consumers are making more health-conscious decisions than those before them.

According to the Nielson Global Health and Wellness Survey, on average, 75 percent of people are changing their daily diets to reach desired body goals. This figure is 83 percent in the United States alone.

The report also shows that the world is moving toward diets that have low fat, less sugar and more natural foods. People are ditching the McGriddle for something like avocado toast. Tons of fast-food chains still use high counts of sugar and excess fat in their foods.

Fast-food chains need to revamp their whole food strategy in order to compete in the future. With the rise of consumers making more health-conscious decisions, fast-food chains will be obsolete if they do not adjust.

Companies need to get their ingredients from organic, fresh non-GMO sources. McDonalds understands this and has already stripped artificial ingredients from chicken nuggets and started making several of its burgers with 100 percent fresh beef. On its website, one can find all of McDonald's food suppliers to ensure that the food is coming from clean sources.

However, the thing that fast-food chains are lagging behind in is menu options for their consumers.

Fast-food chains need to realize that just because someone is vegetarian doesn’t mean they want a salad every time they eat at the establishment. There are foods such as tofu, falafel and vegetables that can be used to make different vegetarian or vegan meals.

A restaurant called the Vegan Junk Food Bar in Amsterdam has a menu has composed of traditional junk foods, like burgers and nuggets, but with a vegan twist. Everything on the menu is made entirely of plant-based meat.

Fast-food chains should take advantage of these growing markets by introducing a variety of diet alternatives. Surprising as it sounds, it is not impossible to cook a mouthwatering burger without any meat. Companies like Beyond Meat have been doing this for years and are now more capable than ever to make their products taste more like real meat.

Companies should not ditch meat and turn toward veganism or vegetarianism but should have a larger variety of options in their menus and capture shares in these growing markets.

With the reputations of beloved fast-food chains declining, companies have to do more to keep up with the changing times.  It’s not enough to take out artificial ingredients and add organic and diet-based choices on the menu, but it’s a step in the right direction.

-Garrett D. Greene

Marketing ‘18