Case mcdonald

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Harvard Business School

Rev. February 27, 1998

McDonald's Corporation (Condensed)


The bell rings and the Vehicle button lights up. "Welcome to McDonald's! May I take your order please?" Through the sounds of a growling muffler and a blaring radio, a male voice responds, "Yes. Twobigmacsaquarterwithcheesetwolargefries ... alargecokeandalargerootbeer." My fingers searchdesperately for the correct buttons on the order register as I struggle to remember and decipher the order. "Would you like some dessert with dinner?" "No thanks, that's it." Torn between the urge to look up into the microphone and the necessity of looking down at the register display, I fumble with the Speak switch, read back the order at a snail's pace, get confirmation, and read off the total."That'll be $5.72. Please drive around to the window." Oh yes, I'm supposed to pour drinks. I reach awkwardly for the drink cups, scoop up too much ice and have to dump the extra out, read each label on the drink machine until I see Coke, and press the button marked Large. The bell has already rung again. "Welcome to McDonald's!" After an hour, I can reach for the right register key most of the timeand know, for example, that root beer caps should be creased to differentiate them from Coke caps on orders that contain both. As I was relieved by Sandy, I watched her start to pour two drinks before the order was completed ("God gave you two hands. Use them!" the store manager had said). She upgraded fries to large fries and read the whole order back in a flash. She capped the drinks, put themon the assembly counter, helped Betsy check another order, and said again, "Welcome to McDonald's!"1 The McDonald's production process, from frozen meat patties coming in the rear door to hot meals going out the front, was geared to providing a uniformly high-quality, quickly served meal in clean, pleasant surroundings.

After World War II, Richard and Maurice McDonald were having troublestaffing their San Bernardino, California, carhop restaurant; there was the usual parade of drunks and drifters. "We said," Dick McDonald recalls, "let's get rid of it all. Out went dishes, glasses and silverware. Out went service, the dishwashers and the long menu. We decided to serve just hamburgers, drinks, and french fries on paper plates. Everything prepared in advance, everything uniform. Allgeared to heavy volume in a short amount of time."2

1Casewriter's experience at the Hillybourne McDonald's drive-thru window. 2Forbes , January 15, 1973.

Research Associate David C. Rikert prepared this case under the supervision of Professor W. Earl Sasser, Jr. as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.The cooperation of McDonald’s Corporation and of the Hillybourne store manager and personnel is gratfully acknowledged. Copyright © 1980 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may bereproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any meansÑelectronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwiseÑwithout the permi ssion of Harvard Business School.


The McDonald's Corporation






McDonald's Corporation (Condensed)

Ray Kroc, then 52 and a milk-shake machine salesman, met theMcDonald brothers in 1954. "I was amazed," Kroc remembered, "this little drive-in having people standing in line. The volume was incredible." Kroc proposed a deal with the brothers to sell franchises, which was accepted, and the spectacular story of the Golden Arches had begun. McDonald's has dominated the hamburger fast-food industry, with a 1979 market share of 35% that dwarfed Burger King's 11% and...
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