New McDonald’s Café Hopes to Lure Customers Back Under the Golden Arches

The struggling fast-food giant recently launched The Corner in Sydney, a ‘learning lab’ that serves quinoa, eggplant, and Moroccan roast chicken.
(Photo: @thecorner2050/Instagram)
Jan 4, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

From a burger-for-your-beer-can program to hiring the MythBusters guy to dispel pink slime rumors, McDonald’s marketing team cooked up plenty of weird ideas to lure back customers in 2014. Now the fast-food behemoth is experimenting with what probably should have been the focus in the first place: the menu.

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McDonald’s recently overhauled an outlet in Sydney by stripping it of the usual red-and-yellow branding and renaming it The Corner. (The only sign it’s a McEstablishment: the word “McCafe” in small print on the logo.) The restaurant is “a learning lab,” according to Business Insider Australia, and serves a menu that includes salads with Moroccan roast chicken breast, chipotle pulled pork, pumpkin, and eggplant. It also offers sandwiches on brioche buns.

(Photo: The Corner Cafe/Facebook)

“What was interesting was the residual McDonald’s-ness the meal couldn’t shake,” wrote The Guardian’s Michael Safi about the bacon-and-egg roll he tried. “It’s something about the perfectly symmetrical sugary bun with an inside too white to be produced by nature.” That said, Safi concedes that he didn’t have “that dirty feeling you get” after eating the usual McDonald’s burger.

McDonald’s spokesperson Skye Oxenham told Business Insider Australia that the project shows the company’s commitment to “real noticeable change.”

Sales numbers, however, suggest that customers haven’t been buying into the fast-food chain’s recent efforts. Perhaps its woes began with the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, which laid bare the consequences of eating a McDonald’s diet. Recent obesity rates and health awareness campaigns have made the Golden Arches even more unpopular. People in their 20s and 30s in particular have been taking their business elsewhere, including to fast-casual chains such as Chipotle and Five Guys. According to restaurant consulting firm Technomic, the percentage of Americans ages 19 to 21 who eat at McDonald’s monthly has dropped 12.9 percent since 2011.

McDonald’s is pulling out all the stops to attract a more discerning customer. In October, it began testing build-your-own burger kiosks in California. On Friday it launched ads expanding on the “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan because, well, the company recognizes “all the negativity that surrounds daily life and [it’s] choosing to celebrate lovin’ more.”

It’s unclear whether The Corner’s experimental food items will make it to other locations. But McDonald’s dwindling sales might make the company desperate enough to overhaul the unhealthy menu that made it a household name.