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

You think you know McDonald's.

Principally because, especially in the U.S., the burger chain achieved a stasis far more certain that the viscosity of cheap ketchup.

Too many McDonald's were all the same and few were delightful places to sit in, never mind eat.

The burger chain knows, though, it must adapt or end up being recycled.

It began to do that -- to my eyes, at least -- in Europe.

Somehow, McDonald's over there was a lot more salubrious than McDonald's over here. 

The food was more interesting and the environment often more inviting.

Now, though, McDonald's is bringing some startling modernity over here.

On Thursday, the company's opened a new 19,000 square foot restaurant in Chicago. It likely looks like no McDonald's you've ever seen.

It does, though, have more than a passing resemblance to an Apple store. Or, at least, a Microsoft store.

There are huge windows. Solar panels, too. Touchscreens greet you at the door. And what are those big, green things?

My, they're trees.

You almost feel ashamed squirting your ketchup onto the open top of your Big Mac box.

You might think I'm exaggerating the fanciness of this new restaurant.

Well, let me tell you that it's even blessed with table service.

Sadly, unlike Apple and Microsoft stores, not every McDonald's will look as lovely as this.

There are simply too many of them and, you know, money.

The burger chain is, though, making something of a statement about its intentions: not to be the old McDonald's.

I experienced a somewhat similar modern McDonald's earlier this year in Lisbon.

No, not the one in Ohio. The one in Portugal that's among the finest cities in the world -- despite its soccer fans occasionally beating up their team's players -- and will hopefully not be plunged into ugliness by too many tourists.

The atmosphere at this McDonald's was entirely different and felt more like a modern café. Of course, given that it was full of Portuguese people helped.

McDonald's has created a uniquely difficult problem for itself.

It's trying to change so much, so quickly that you wonder if any one person knows all the changes that are being made.

From fresh beef Quarter Pounders to ice cream machines that actually work, management is trying to show it knows there is vast competition -- some of it quite classy.

With every step forward though, there comes a setback. The chain still hasn't recovered from a significant outbreak of disease in its salads. Around 400 people in 15 states have now been affected.

You can have the most fetching design you like, but if your food goes wrong your beautiful restaurant may be empty.

Published on: Aug 10, 2018