Big Mac Strikes Back

Burger bashers, watch out! McDonald's is on a roll

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Not everyone, however, has been delighted with McDonald's hamburger imperialism. In the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, where McDonald's has 16 outlets, hundreds of local restaurant owners and tavernkeepers marched through the streets last May to protest the incursion of American junk food, shouting, "Down with hamburgers!" and "Long live the corner bar!" Despite such friction, McDonald's plans to open 200 foreign outlets this year.

McDonald's corporate structure has become a model often cited by management gurus. The company's highly decentralized management runs its franchises with an unusual mixture of strict regimentation and entrepreneurial freedom, a style handed down by the late company founder, Ray Kroc. On one hand, McDonald's is a stickler for uniformity, indoctrinating its future managers at Hamburger University, where they learn that a 5-gal. pickle pail must contain at least 3,000 slices. On the other hand, McDonald's realizes that corporate headquarters is not always the best place to come up with market-sensitive ideas. One object lesson was a headquarters brainstorm years ago known as the Hulaburger, a pineapple-and-cheese combination that flopped in a big way. By contrast, the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin and McD.L.T. were all dreamed up by individual McDonald's operators.

Sticking intently to the one business it knows best, McDonald's has been able to stay clear of Wall Street's merger-and-restructuring mayhem. The single-minded outfit prefers as few distractions as possible from its imperatives of "cleaner, faster, hotter." Diversify? No way, said Chairman Fred Turner recently to a fellow executive. "We have 16,000 rest rooms," noted Turner. "As soon as those are all clean, we'll talk diversification." Considering McDonald's penchant for perfectionism, that time may be a long way off.

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