McDonald's Trains Its Crosswires on Starbucks

08 January 2008

OLATHE, Kansas: In the unlikely setting of the vast American flatlands, the first shot will be fired this fall in what will likely develop into the mother of all battles. The combatants? McDonald's and Starbucks.

As of autumn 2008, Big Mac will rollout a 'borrowed' concept, firing-up from the Kansas boondocks to most of its 14,000 stateside locations.

Coffee bars with baristas [coffee waiters] serving cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and the chilled Frappe, a taste-alike for Starbucks' ice-blended Frappuccino.

According to the burger behemoth's business plan, the rollout will also vend smoothies and bottled beverages, adding an estimated extra $1 billion (€676.3m; £506.1) to its annual sales of $21.6bn.

And similarities to the Starbucks experience are no way coincidental, for example the term 'barista'.

Likewise, espresso machines will feature at the front counters. McDonald's claims it wants customers to see coffee beans being ground and baristas topping the mochas with whipped cream.

A veritable seachange for a firm that for reasons best known to itself has hitherto kept all food preparation away from the public gaze.

Explains John Betts, McDonald's vp of national beverage strategy: "You create a little bit more of a theater there."

With an increasingly chilly outlook for the advertising business in the year ahead, such a marketing dogfight will not be unwelcome.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff