Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why is McDonald’s using Australia as a testing ground?” Good question. (OK, it’s a little “Forbes magazine” but again it beats answering questions about the names of assorted, odd intimate acts. Seriously? We thought “Cop’s Delight” was a new menu item specifically for the police that McDonald’s was test marketing, mmmkay?)
This past June, McDonald’s reported 10 consecutive solid months of great sales in Australia. Not so much in the US or China. So is McDonald’s using Australia as a testing ground because they are doing well there? Maybe that’s part of it. But there’s more to it than that.
Our guest speaker, the lovely Kate Taylor of Entrepreneur confirms this and says: “In the last few years, the country has served as a testing ground for some of McDonald’s most innovative ideas, some of which may help the chain stateside as it aims for a turnaround.”
More importantly, McDonald’s is using Australia as a testing ground because things that work there almost always work here and/or in Europe. David Corsun, associate professor of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver agrees: “Australia is, in some ways, like the U.S. If the market testing is in a variety of Australian markets, McDonald’s will have a reasonably good read on how a variety of markets here will respond.”
Taylor reports that they have a new series of commercials titled “How very un-McDonald’s” that focuses on “foodie customers surprising themselves by enjoying a ‘gourmet’ meal at McDonald’s. The campaign is intended to accompany the national rollout of the Create Your Taste menu.”
McDonald’s started testing the Create Your Taste in Australia—and to be accurate—a few places in California—just last year. Taylor agrees: “Australia is the perfect testing ground for McDonald’s because of the market’s similarity to the U.S. “
She adds: “The platform allows for customers to order using a kiosk, personalizing their burger with gourmet ingredients such as parmesan cheese and pineapple. After early successes, the company invested $1 billion to upgrade restaurants across Australia, bringing Create Your Taste to 750 out of around 900 locations by the end of 2015.”
She confirms that McDonald’s “customer learning labs” (a.k.a. “test restaurants”) in Australia have a significant rate of success in allowing McDonald’s to learn what will work elsewhere. Of course McDonald’s doesn’t always score 100% on all their ideas. Still, Australia also serves as a way of determining what should even move onto US testing grounds.
They’ve tested such ideas as Create Your Taste, table service, digital menu boards, home delivery and “MCafe barista-made coffee via drive thru” which is presently a hit across all of Australia. In a statement McDonald’s Australia CEO Andrew Gregory concludes: “All of our innovations have been led by Australians.”
Why is McDonald’s using Australia as a testing ground? Now you know.
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