Across the country, more than 500 stores have undergone the makeover, including a handful in the nation’s capital.
The recognizable red mansard roofs are being replaced with more natural-looking stone and brick exteriors. Inside, leather lounge chairs and diffused LED lighting, as well as the televisions and fireplaces, are being installed as part of the chain’s “re-imaging” plan.
“A lot of these stores were designed 20 or 30 years ago,” says Perry McKenna, the owner and operator of three franchises in Kanata and Stittsville.
“We need to re-invest in our business to stay current, fresh and relevant. If you don’t, you can quickly become a dinosaur.”
While McDonald’s stores previously featured relatively uniform and static seating areas, the redeveloped interiors have different “zones,” says Mr. McKenna, who purchased his first franchise in 1996.
There are areas near the televisions for solo diners who want to quickly eat and leave, a large 10-seat boardroom-style table for families and large groups, as well as a “lingering zone” with fireplaces and couches.
“The purpose is to relax and take your time,” says Mr. McKenna.
He says he’s seen a significant return on his investment, crediting it in part for several years of double-digit growth in sales and customer volumes.
Mr. McKenna declined to discuss the cost of the upgrades, except to say they are “quite substantial.” McDonald’s Canada spokesperson Stephanie Sorensen says franchisees are responsible for paying for the renovations, but receive support through various financial programs.
Ms. Sorensen says the number of stores being renovated in Ottawa is still a “moving target” but a set schedule would be available in the spring.
A drive around the city shows the stores at St. Laurent Boulevard and Innis Road, Bronson and Carling Avenues, as well as on Montreal Road, near St. Laurent Boulevard, have all undergone upgrades.
A local retail analyst says the upscaling trend is not exclusive to McDonald’s.
“Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and affluent. Companies are realizing they have to do more,” says Barry Nabatian, director of research at Shore Tanner & Associates.
He says the move by McDonald’s invites customers to stay longer, which leads them to buy more products from the fast-food restaurant and make it a destination.
“When people are there longer, they consume more and make appointments to meet friends and colleagues. That brings more business,” he says.
Mr. Nabatian adds discount retailers in the food and consumer goods sector performed well during the recession. The additional revenues gave companies like McDonald’s funds to invest in their stores, he says.
In its most recent quarterly results, released earlier this month, McDonald’s reported sales at stores open at least 13 months increased 4.9 per cent, year-over-year, in the United States and Europe.
Ms. Sorensen says Canadian financial data will be released in the new year.