James Cowan’s current Canadian Business cover story, on how McDonald’s Canada is helping to turn around the ailing global burger giant, is an in-depth look into one of the world’s biggest business turnaround stories. You should really read the whole thing, but there are some interesting factoids within the feature that we wanted to highlight here.
For instance: McDonald’s may be a fast-food colossus in most endeavours, but in Canada it’s a pipsqueak in the coffee wars, dwarfed by Tim Hortons, which controls 77% of the brewed-coffee market here. The biggest hurdle is just getting people to try their first cup—which is why McDonald’s Canada has given away a total of 113 million cups of coffee since it introduced its McCafé brand in April 2009.
McDonald’s has also taken a lot of flak for the nutritional value of kid-centric food options like the Happy Meal. But it seems that even though consumers say they want healthier options—and dietitians urge them to take advantage of those options—they don’t actually buy them when it comes time to order. Even though McDonald’s now exclusively advertises happy meals as including milk and apple slices, only 1% of Happy Meals in Canada are ordered with milk; only 4% choose apple slices.
McDonald’s Canada debuted its “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign in June 2012, soliciting customers’ questions about their food practices on social media. The campaign received 6,000 questions in the first four months; the tally now stands at 20,000. Most Canadians assume “Our Food, Your Questions” was a global campaign, but it was a made-in-Canada marketing coup that went viral around the world.
The chain has had its share of flops. McDonald’s Pizza was a fiasco for the Canadian chain in the ’90s; just last December the U.S. parent corporation announced that it couldn’t sell 10 million pounds of chicken wings because customers found them both too spicy and too expensive.
Focusing on growing its breakfast trade and working to reassure customers about their food quality appears to be working for McDonald’s Canada. Its system-wide sales in 2013 were $3.83 billion, a $200 million increase over the previous year.