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Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2002 / 21 Kislev 5763

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports


Finding the McTunity within their McFailure




http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It used to be that if you owned a McDonalds, even in a bad location, you were set. But hear tell, the king of all restaurant franchises is in trouble and they're actually closing some of their restaurants. Not only that, Burger King is trying to sell locations. Not some...all!

But, as Albert Einstein said, "Within every opportunity lies an opportunity."

Not that burger empires have asked, but I think they already have the answer to their problems and it's not in changing menus, fighting price wars or updating Ronald. It's all in the marketing. They've got to stop selling themselves as a place to eat on the way to somewhere. They've got to start promoting themselves to families as the somewhere itself.

Afraid to fly?

Economy got you strapped?

Vacations out of the question and kids going stir crazy?

Well, come on down!

McDonalds Resorts Rock!

Burger King Vacations Packages starting at 99 cents!

Cheaper than Disneyland and never more than a mile away!

-Happy Meal Weekend Getaways now being booked-

And it's not only cheap, it's good for you. Fast food restaurants have never been considered billboards for family values, but I'm here to say that it's time to cut McDonalds and Burger King a break. As far as I'm concerned, they not only raise family values but they are a boon to family sanity. I'm talking about the industry's decision to build playgrounds in many of their outlets. Now it's time for these meat hustlers to take advantage of what they've built and SELL IT!

It used to be that I'd have to take a week off from work, watch the sorrowful eyes of our family's beloved Rover as we pull away from the vets, pay four or five hundred dollars a piece for airline tickets, then forty to fifty dollars each to get into a Six Flags amusement park. Now I just have to shove the little monsters into the family transport, drive two or three blocks down the boulevard and unload the troops into the local McDonalds.

For the price of a couple happy meals, during the next two hours, while the kiddies entertain themselves on the slides, ball rooms, and free Nintendo, I get to catch up on last month's Sunday Times, write that Pulitzer-winning novel I've been putting off, or just meditate on Ronald McDonald's defense system against the Hamburglar.

I don't know who the geniuses were that came up with this playland thing but I'd bet dollars to McNuggets they've got kids. It's a no-brainer. Makes you wonder why it took so long. Now why aren't they selling it?

You give the parents and the kids a reason to go, then you give them a better reason to stay. And what happens when they stay? Well, while parents are overdosing on free soda refills, which I want to thank whomever pushed the country in that direction, the younguns are exhausting themselves climbing up and down the fun matrixes.

Some say that all this is just a ploy to keep you around longer until the kids want something else. "This is where they getcha," they say. Sooner or later the kids are going to come in from playworld for extras like ice cream. Well, here again, kudos must be lavished. A cone at either of the main combatants of the burger wars cost about twenty percent of the same thing at Ben and Jerry's. Again, the lords of gristle are out and out winners.

You get all this AND there's no need to make a stop at the nearby Toys R Us. That's because the two fast food kings have seen fit to throw in some hot, theme, play piece in every kiddie meal. I know a lot of parents may see this deluge of cross-marketing trinkets to set a bad example for our children, I see it as...FREE TOYS!

Now I realize that the nutritional virtues at most of these fast food empires may be sorely lacking, but for the time being the little bit of sanity it affords parents is well worth the toll it'll take on our children's diet. And anyway, I wouldn't be surprised at all if any day now these promotional wizards won't be marketing the Kiddie Salad Value Meals with a free Harry Potter vitamin inside.

So B. King and McGuys, start getting McSmart. Put in a few cots, maybe a shower or two and hustle the brochures out to the tourist agents. Holiday break* is right around the corner.

*Author's Warning: Those Of The Kosher Persuasion Should Skip These Treif Tours And Instead Spend A Nice Week In The Catskills.



JWR contributor Steve Young, Prism Award winner and Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing, is contributing editor at the Writers Guild of America's "Written By" magazine. He is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success," . the director/writer of "My Dinner With Ovitz," and opens car doors for students at his very young kids' school. His website is www.greatfailure.com. He can be heard this coming Friday on Michael Medved's radio show. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Steve Young