McDonald’s Meets its Arch Nemesis

By Tom Holste

Sep. 4, 2015

(Taking a break from film writing to talk about another area of pop culture for a moment…)

Apparently, McDonald’s does not have a fan in Bill Oakley.

Oakley, a former Simpsons writer, made headlines this week when he took to Twitter to post a roughly 30-post rant about ways that McDonald’s needs to fix its franchise. Oakley is a smart guy and a good writer (he was a co-showrunner on The Simpsons for Seasons 6 and 7, two of its best years), so I have respect for him. But he shows a surprising amount of ire on this subject.

I can hear Bill Oakley saying:

I can hear Bill Oakley saying: “Hello, my old foe. We meet again.”

Oakley made his statements after another bit of news surfaced that McDonald’s had fallen slightly in its lead over fast food chains. It fell by 0.7 percent in the last quarter. That’s less than one full percent, folks. This should hardly be reason for anyone to panic. McDonald’s still significantly outpaces all of its competitors. It could just be an aberration that self-adjusts by next quarter. But Oakley foresees this as the beginning of the end, and so he took to Twitter to lay out his 95 theses against the burger chain.

Partly in response to the slightly falling sales, McDonald’s is making a small improvement: Soon, breakfast sandwiches will be available all day long instead of simply ending at 10:30 am. Not only is this extremely sensible on their part, but considering that there’s a darkly satirical scene in the 1993 movie Falling Down where Michael Douglas pulls a gun on a fast-food worker for not being willing to serve him breakfast at 10:31 am, it’s only surprising that McDonald’s didn’t take the hint sooner.

However, Oakley doesn’t care for this idea. “Oh man McDonald’s is the drunk guy at party at 2:45 am staggering around desperately hitting on every last girl with this breakfast stunt,” he tweets. Yet later in the same multi-post Tweet, he says that “innovation” is the key to getting the franchise back on track.

Oakley criticizes McDonald’s most recent additions to the menu and adds, “@CarlsJr is the one to emulate here.” He’s probably right, but McDonald’s distances Carl’s Jr. by a significant degree. What possible incentive could McDonald’s have to make themselves more like a less popular chain?

Oakley insists that “this ‘quality’ burger you introduce MUST be at least as flavorful at the @CarlsJr Six-Dollar burger and as easy for the franchisees to make.” But then, later he says: “No items over 4$. Who the (heck) is going to pay over $4 for a McDonald’s burger?” So McDonald’s is supposed to make a burger that costs six dollars but then only charge $4 for it? In order to pick up business, they should take a $2 loss on every burger sold? Again, what possible incentive is there?

For Oakley, scaling back massively is also the name of the game. Citing nostalgia as another necessary virtue, Oakley tweets: “This American Classics (better name to come) Menu will emulate the original menu served at the first McD’s … The mini-menu will have 4-6 items MAX and not allow for too much variation so as to avoid clogging up the drive thru as dummies make choices.”

So to review what we’re looking at so far, Oakley wants all McDonald’s to cut back their menu so that they only serve burgers that are too expensive for them to turn a profit while selling them.

“It’ll be a copy basically of the In & Out Menu,” he writes. Um, there’s already a place for that. It’s called In & Out.

If you see this very dangerous man, report him to Bill Oakley immediately!

If you see this very dangerous man, report him to Bill Oakley immediately!

“Third tenet of the plan is INNOVATION,” Oakley continues. “What the (heck) are you doing sitting on your a– while Taco Bell introduces a new menu item each week?”
So, apparently McDonald’s should scale back and only serve burgers to prevent long lines, but then they should be introducing a new sandwich every week? This is completely contradictory. McDonald’s got to the point that it is now, with so many different options, because it listened to customer demands to add new items. What Oakley is demanding is for McDonald’s to be what it already is. You can’t condemn them for having too many items and then insist that they constantly add new items. There is no logic to this argument.

“Launch a destination Mega @McDonalds or two or three,” Oakley further suggests, “One in Times Square, one in Vegas, one in Orlando. Each one is an ultra-cool big Super McDonald’s and THERE you serve a selection of the coolest best McDonald’s items from all over the world. From the US, the Mc Lobster. Some of those wild ones from Japan and India and Malaysia and France. Serve beer too. A ‘Royale with Cheese,’ etc., etc.”

That all sounds well and good, Mr. Oakley. But where do I go if want to eat a Filet-O-Fish? Remember, you took away everything but simple burgers from the main restaurants. I have to fly from Chicago to Times Square or Orlando to try these glorified novelty stores. Where do I go to get a McChicken?

“You will get SO much press.” I don’t doubt that they will. Headlines everywhere will read: “McDonald’s Discontinues All of Your Favorite Sandwiches.”

Oakley concludes by bragging: “I suspect you’d pay some consultant a million bucks for that plan and you just got it for free on Twitter.”

But the summary of Oakley’s advice is: Go bigger, but go smaller. Live in the past, but give us a bunch of new stuff. I think this free advice is pretty much worth what we paid for it.

Coming soon: A McDonald's that's completely different, yet totally the same.

Coming soon: A McDonald’s that’s completely different, yet totally the same.

Nonetheless, fans of Oakley took to Twitter to praise him. One wrote: “Twitter: where a Simpsons writer (@thatbilloakley) can drop a rant on McDonalds’ business plan that is likely better than their actual plan.” There were many others like that. But what substantively did Oakley offer that isn’t already being done by McDonald’s, or would make no sense for them to do?

Mr. Oakley is likely a very nice man. Maybe he just had a really bad week. But I think we need to stop praising people who throw brickbats without strong ideas behind them. Oakley’s comments are just symptomatic of a larger problem. We have to stop believing that anyone on the Internet automatically knows more than the people who are actually doing the hard work of trying to please people with conflicting interests.

On a certain level, I don’t blame all the Internet sites that turned this rant into a news story yesterday. It’s a bit amusing and entertaining to read, but not very practical. If Bill Oakley dislikes McDonald’s this much, then I recommend that he simply stop going to McDonald’s.

In the meantime, I’ll be getting in line for a Sausage Egg McMuffin at 3 in the afternoon.

Source: The AV Club

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