George Will

McDonald's has 14,000 restaurants in America, another 17,000 in 117 other countries. The company will add another 1,000 in 2008, more than 90 percent of them abroad. Such is the power of the McDonald's brand, 48 percent of the people of India were aware of McDonald's before it opened its first restaurant on the subcontinent.

Skinner's job is to maximize shareholder value. Shareholders should be pleased. The value of their stock has more than doubled during his three-year tenure. McDonald's stock will have either the best or second-best (if second, only to Merck & Co.) gain among the Dow industrials this year.

The food fascists are not pleased. Pursing their lips and waxing censorious at the mere mention of McDonald's, they blame it for fat people. But although it might seem peculiar to cite McDonald's customers as evidence of Americans' increasing health consciousness, consider this: Red meat has become suspect and McDonald's now sells as much chicken as beef -- 150 percent more chicken in dollar volume than just five years ago.

Do the arithmetic, says Skinner. Americans eat 90 meals a month. The average American, who has 900,000 restaurants to choose from, eats three of those meals at McDonald's. Surely the other 87 meals are more of a problem. Even McDonald's core customers, who eat there 50 times a year, consume more than 1,000 meals elsewhere.

Asked if McDonald's now offers salads because they sell well or to silence those who think McDonald's is causing the nation's obesity epidemic, Skinner candidly and succinctly says: "Both." Still, although its core products remain hamburgers, fries and milkshakes, it sells a lot of salads to the 52 million customers it has every day worldwide. Kroc, who died in 1984, once said he did not know what his company would be selling in 2000 but he knew it would be selling more of it than anyone else. He was right.

Kroc and Walt Disney -- the inventors of the Big Mac and Mickey Mouse, respectively -- were born in Chicago 10 months apart and served in the same Red Cross unit in World War I. Quite a state, Illinois.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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