Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Will McDonald’s drink Starbucks’ latte?

Is it any surprise McDonald’s has brewed itself boldly into the coffee business? The McDonald’s menu has evolved dramatically since its founding days in the 1950s, back when it was a simple spot to get a burger, fries and a drink. The company has adapted to shifting consumer tastes, wants, and demands, and has become a major player at breakfast, in chicken, in snacks, salads, and more. There have been a few flops along the way, but in the last six years, McDonald’s menu innovations, better service, and improved atmospherics, have pulled in new customers and boosted profits. Now, thanks largely to Starbucks, Americans now crave fancy coffee drinks, and want them for breakfast, in the afternoon, and even after dinner. It’s no surprise McDonald’s is seeking to capture all these newly evolved coffee cravers.

McDonald’s mochas, lattes, and cappuccinos have gotten positive buzz; even people who prefer Starbucks have given the McDonald’s drinks pretty high marks. And coffee drinkers who get their caffeine fix at McD’s can pocket the savings over the same drink at Starbucks. In recessionary times, that’s a powerful advantage. One survey found that 60% of consumers will trade to McDonald’s if the coffee drinks are cheaper and made faster. There’s also the convenience factor – you can grab a latte while picking up a happy meal for your kids, in a part of town Starbucks hasn’t yet hit, or on a road trip. Starbucks is fighting back against the McCafe invasion with an ad campaign focusing on quality adherence; they’re also experimenting with a breakfast value menu and one dollar coffee. However, we’re betting plenty of consumers will choose McDonald’s premium coffee along with its iconic food offerings over coffee at Starbucks accompanied by its made-off-premise bakery items and microwaved sandwiches.

On the day premium coffee at McDonald's debuted, my wife’s comment after taking her first sip: "Starbucks is in trouble."
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