Is Bigger Better?



“Keep it simple,” Jessica Foust told the audience at the 2016 Food Industry Summit last month at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. As director of culinary innovation for McDonald’s, Foust was trying to make a point that sometimes the simplest way of doing business may, in fact, be the best way. 

At the annual gathering, hosted by Saint Joseph’s Haub School of Business, Foust related to the audience that several years ago her employer was looking to develop a better-tasting liquid margarine—an ill-sounding but key ingredient in many of the products McDonald’s offers at its 14,000 domestic outlets and nearly 34,000 restaurants worldwide. The goal was to make it taste more like butter. Suddenly, it hit everyone in the room, why not just use butter in preparing foods sold at the restaurant chain?

Her comments got me to look up from that important task of texting a friend about fantasy football. It even got me thinking. Maybe she is right. I mean if it works for McDonald’s, why can’t it work for everyone?

Retailers—and perhaps all businesses—have tried for decades to come up with newfangled approaches to their operations, all designed to get consumers excited about what they offer and to get them to spend more money at their operations. Bigger has always been equated with better and more successful. The problem is, it just may not be true. 

Perhaps, a more sensible approach is just doing a better job at what you already have. Liquid margarine, for example, may be a less expensive and more convenient way of making hamburgers and Egg McMuffins, but it is not as good as the real thing, and customers, especially these days, want authentic and often are willing to pay for it. 

The key thing to remember here is that consumers visit a store because they believe that outlet has an expertise in a certain market, which will lead to the right assortment of merchandise being made available to consumers at fair, competitive prices. 

Trying to expand your business sounds good on paper because it may mean getting larger and producing more sales and profits. But, in the end, it may not work with your loyal customer base. What does work is being the best you can be at a special segment of the industry and making sure that consumers know that they can count on you to offer them what they are looking for. Sounds simple, right? 


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