I have this theory about eating healthy: I think most of us talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, we zip through the drive-thru more often than we care to admit. Which is why, when news arrived that same-store sales at McDonald’s have risen, I wasn’t surprised.
There are many reasons for this. For one, we all believe we live busy lives. We’ve conducted nationwide research that shows people want more time more than anything else today. (Even more than money!) So, fast food places like McDonald’s always have a steady stream of customers. How many of us parents, tired from our own busy lives, lazily decide we’ll just swing by a fast food place to pick up something for the kids to eat? (And it keeps your kids happy. Like letting them watch TV or play video games.)
There’s also something else lurking out there that those of us looking to steal market share should be aware: In today’s economy, we are less often willing to go out of our way for something different and instead we seek out the most familiar. Meaning, in healthier (no pun intended) times, we are more likely to skip that drive-thru and go to the grocery store to get something healthier for dinner, even if it costs more and inconveniences us.
However, in tougher times, when we’re all seeking refuge in a way, we dive into brands that feel comfortable and represent a decision filled with expectations so specific we practically have the menu memorized. (Although, the next time I can actually understand the cashier over the menu speaker will be the first. It’s like listening to a Charlie Brown adult.) McDonald’s certainly represents all that – just as its brand represents “children fun.” (Which is why we often pick McDonald’s for our kids.)
I suppose that fact could be a call to investors that the brands with the most comfort living inside in their brands are the ones most likely to ride out this economic downturn – or even succeed in it. It’s not quite that simple (you must have a meaningful brand first). But the next time you go through the McDonald’s drive-thru, give yourself a break today and know that you might not be buying that Big Mac because you’re lazy about watching your weight. It may just be that comfort is what you’re ordering just like everybody else.