What do Starbucks and McDonald’s have in Common this week?

July 2, 2015

Besides thousands of stores, which they neither call cafes nor restaurants – but stores -, Starbucks and McDonald’s have another common thread right now.

They are both cutting back on menu items and outlets.

After Starbucks’ outrageous payment of $100 million for the La Boulange chain of pink-hued bakery-cafes headquartered in San Francisco, they are now closing all of the 23 stand-alone La Boulange café stores, mostly located in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Starbucks will close the La Boulange retail outlets, but will keep serving Boulange pastries and breakfast sandwiches in Starbucks stores. But we must wonder how long that will last.

While Starbucks and Boulange claim their breakfast sandwich business is up substantially, many Starbucks regulars agree the Boulange food is worse than what Starbucks served before they spent $100 million to buy Frenchman Pacal Rigo’s chain of bakeries.

Chefs, bakers and customers seem to agree that their favorite Starbucks pastries are no longer. What Boulange has made for Starbucks also are not what people remember from La Boulange. Each piece is smaller and more expensive than either company offered before the sweeping buyout.

Apparently Starbucks thought they solved their low food sales when they bought La Boulange from Rigo, but now realize that their overall food revenues are even worse.

And then there’s McDonald’s, which will close 350 more stores this year, on top of the 350 it already closed in 2015, which means for the first time in 40 years McDonald’s will close more stores than it opens. But that still leaves them with a whopping 13,000 in the U.S. and 36,000 outlets worldwide. Speaking of whoppers, Burger King has about 8,000 outlets in U.S. and Subway has 27,000 in this country, with two franchises right here in Sonoma.

Starbucks and McDonald’s both blame slowing food sales on saturation of their markets.

How about giving credit to consumers who are much smarter and more demanding about the quality of the food they eat than they used to be? McDonald’s sends out press releases saying they are going to change meat quality and serve healthier food sometime in the future. Just think of the proportion of domestic and imported beef and potatoes that McDonald’s consumes and the gasses released by all those cattle.

Growing rapidly, the Chipotle chain serves quality organic food, and constantly ups their no-chemical, no antibiotics requirements from suppliers.

The closing of mega-corporate “stores” leaves openings for local independent bakers and burger joints to rise and fill the gaps in a (hopefully) healthful way.

Much like when a basketball or football star drops off a team, another player gets the chance to shine.

Think about it.

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