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What Your Business Can Learn from McDonald’s

Photo by Joiarib Morales Uc on Unsplash

McDonald’s is one of the world’s most recognizable brands, with a global footprint of over 36,000 restaurants and yearly profits stretching into the billions. There’s no doubt that business owners of all classes and categories would love to replicate the success of the fast food giant. However, few will have actually considered the steps taken by the founding McDonald brothers and their partner Ray Kroc.

Despite operating under the simple guise of a fast food company, McDonald’s is arguably one of the most innovative and diverse chains in the world. Using multiple income streams, responsive marketing, and a forward-thinking approach to sales, the company has become scalable and successful beyond any doubt. There’s no magic incantation or shortcut that could take a business to the dizzying heights of McDonald’s overnight. However, there are lessons you can take from the strategies executed under the golden arches.


There’s no drive-thru for commercial success. But here are just some of the lessons your business could take away from McDonald’s.

Branding Matters

McDonald’s has firmly established itself as a household name—and that’s no accident. A strong brand identity could help your business to develop credibility and grow your customer base. When people make referrals to their friends, they want to be able to point to a name and a message. And the same goes for when they’re deciding what to buy or where to eat. 

Effective branding can make you stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, a shoddy or inconsistent identity could leave customers questioning whether your business is the right place for them to spend their money. From the iconic Golden Arches to the “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, McDonald’s branding has uniformity across the world. No matter where you are, you can rely on them to give you the very same atmosphere, décor, and food standards as if you were visiting your local branch.

Familiarity leaves a lasting impression. By making your customers feel at home across your entire footprint, you’ll leave them more likely to return time and time again.

Diversify Your Income

This will be a familiar line for anybody who has made investments in the past. However, there’s a good reason why it’s a popular mantra. Relying too heavily on any one stream of income could see you left at the mercy of the markets if for some reason you are suddenly unable to earn from one product or service.

The casual dining market can be an inconsistent one. Fast food restaurants face some of the toughest competition of any retailers, given that the market is so saturated. Whether by accident or design, McDonald’s takes account of this weakness and earns through multiple streams of income.

With only 15% of McDonald’s stores being run directly by the corporation, the remaining sites are operated by franchisees. It might sound counterintuitive. However, working in this way leaves the company with the management bandwidth to run such a huge enterprise. Meanwhile, they continue to generate profits from real estate rental fees paid by franchise owners.

Many business owners will not find themselves in a position to comfortably acquire a significant real estate portfolio, but the principle remains the same. Leverage your business to develop multiple streams of income, and you could not only grow your enterprise but also protect it against adverse market conditions.

Cross-Sell, Upsell

Selling more is the key to increased profits for retailers and restaurateurs alike. From multi-buy promotions to upgrades, encouraging your customers to buy more is the most direct route to revenue growth as part of a viable business model.

Despite a fairly limited product range that undergoes only slight variations overseas, McDonald’s is a master of upselling and cross-selling. Buying a burger? They’ll sell you the fries and drink to go with it. Meanwhile, regular specials and limited-time-only offers attract new customers through the doors.

Knowing how to work with your own range of products or services to encourage larger purchases is one of the most effective ways to increase your transaction count. Additionally, you’ll also build rapport with your clients who may then return or refer you to their friends.



“Innovation” is a buzzword often used by business gurus and marketing managers. However, while it can make your business model sound better, it’s nothing without action. In a world dominated by eCommerce, Trustpilot, and TripAdvisor, it’s vital to differentiate your business from competitors. Today, doing this means more than having a better selection of products or larger premises. It means moving with the times and investing in truly unique selling points (USP’s).

Once again, McDonald’s leads the way on business model mastery. With the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging points at all UK drive-thru locations, the company has immediately marked itself out as the go-to casual dining restaurant for consumers with hybrid and electric vehicles.

In addition, by using modern Ingenico card readers to manage cashless payments across their entire UK estate, McDonald’s makes it easier than ever for their customers to pay. While some of McDonald’s strategies are aspirational, your business could replicate the ease with which sales are completed under the Golden Arches. Simply invest in an affordable, contactless-enabled Ingenico card reader provided by merchant services provider UTP group.

Moving with the times is as simple as following customer trends. So make sure that your business doesn’t fall behind competitors with more advanced payment solutions or clearer USP’s. 

Do Whatever It Takes

However you approach doing business, adopting a conventional approach is certainly no guarantee of success. Doing things differently and tackling problems with original solutions is often the order of the day. This is perhaps best summed up by former McDonald’s CEO Raymond Kroc:

Take calculated risks. Act boldly and thoughtfully. Be an agile company.

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