Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek


Your favorite pop stars are dying, but McDonald's refuses to.

Like the villain at the end of an action movie, just when you think it's breathed its last it comes back up, snarly-faced and firing.

This time last year, the headlines were dire. McDonald's was dull, tired, unimaginative and downright dowdy.

Suddenly, this isn't so.

The company has just announced that sales have gone up 5 percent around the world -- in restaurants that have been open at least a year. And 5.7 percent in the U.S.

What could have led to this spectacular rising from the grave?

I confess to being slightly shocked the other day when I walked past a McDonald's and there was the promise that its production line would make a burger any way I wanted.

This seemed so strange for a brand that I thought of as more of a machine. What? They were sudden wondering whether there were better ways to eat a burger than the limited choices they traditionally offered?

Had McDonald's management suddenly started considering that customers might want something, well, different? (Where I live, it's called In-N-Out.)

It seems they had. Even more shocking -- and please avert your gaze if you are of a more traditional bent -- McDonald's has been experimenting with kale salads.

Just one more example of the hideous Californication of America.

Oddly, there's a sense that it's working.

There was one more big step. The company began to offer an all-day breakfast.

The reaction from some McDonald's franchisees was akin to that of Tom Brady seeing five burly men trying to knock him straight into the side of a mountain. 

It was causing operational chaos, was the claim. It forced the in-store staff to do too much thinking, which isn't easy when you're still in high school and your favorite meal comes from a bong.

Yet here is McDonald's quietly (a joke) celebrating the fact that its all-day breakfast has driven sales skyward.

There is, though, one important question that needs to be asked: Why are people eating breakfast at all times of the day?

Is it because they're working harder, have no time for it in the morning, but cannot live without that glorious Egg McMuffin?

Is it because they're not working so hard, so they're getting up later and believe that noon is the new 7am?

Never having eaten a McDonald's breakfast at lunchtime, I took a look at the all-day menu.

It includes hotcakes and sausage (510 calories), sausage biscuit with egg (520 calories) and a sausage burrito (300 calories).

I conclude, therefore, that Americans aren't necessarily trying to lose weight. They simply in love with sausage and want to eat it all day.

You, though, will also be wondering what lessons you can learn from McDonald's Lazarus act.

The first is not to let your brand image go stale. McDonald's let that happen for years, believing that it could coast along with same offerings, underpinned by the naive belief that everyone was just lovin' it.

The second lesson, though, is that if you introduce something new and employees complain, it might be a very good thing.

The employees might themselves have become stale and lethargic.

Perhaps they've been eating too much sausage for breakfast.