Quality Management at McDonald’s:

Executive summary

Quality Management at McDonald’s is pivotal to every organization. Multinational enterprises need to sustain quality at every step of business service delivery in order to maintain the brand image. McDonalds is one such organization that has sustained top position in global fast food industry since years. Despite of being prone to controversies of lawsuits, customer complaints, health and consumer safety criticism and competitor’s rivalry, McDonalds is still maintaining the best amongst all fast food chains in the world. The report has critically assessed McDonalds and developed a quality management plan to help McDonalds improve their products and services. The DMAIC approach is used to develop the plan and a comprehensive set of recommendations is presented in order to propose practical solutions to prevailing issues.

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Quality management is essential for productivity and strong market position of organizations (Jaziri-Bouagina & Dhouha, 2017). A keen approach involving operations of TQM (total quality management) is mandatory to produce high-quality products that result in ultimate customer satisfaction (Matias, Reis, Azevedo, & Azevedo, 2014). In this report, the quality management processes of McDonald’s are critically analyzed using the quality management model. The report entails the Quality Management Plan using DMAIC principles and ends with the appraisal of quality in the success of McDonald’s as the top fast-food chain of the world.

McDonalds – Background

McDonald’s is an example of a quality-oriented business organization that operates solely on the principles of quality. Despite receiving intense criticism from competitors and health experts for selling ‘unhealthy’ food to customers and dragging them to an unhealthy lifestyle (Deng, 2009), McDonald’s still holds the top position in global fast-food industry with annual revenue of $21.1 billion. There are 36,059 restaurants of McDonald’s operating in 119 countries, having an efficient and skilled workforce of 205,000 employees (McDonalds, 2019). As a multinational organization, McDonald’s successfully expands business operations to other countries by designing a locally-relevant menu and setting the price according to the host country’s economy (Mujtaba & Patel, 2007).

Critical assessment of McDonalds’ quality practices

McDonald’s practices are designed to satisfy customers with the show of ultimate quality-oriented approach at every step of product and service delivery. The Total Quality Management (TQM) approach is radical in all business operations of McDonald’s through benchmarking every stage of order-to-customer satisfaction (Kumar & Kumar, 2015). For example, the hamburger buns are made from whole wheat flour, and the hamburger is made from high-quality beef with no added preservatives. Similarly, the restaurant prepares French fries with potatoes grown in farm fields where no harmful fertilizer or chemical is used to feed the potato crops. The brand carefully selects employees from the local populace and trains them to learn the company’s standardized customer service norms. The Hamburger University of McDonald’s situated in Illinois is an example of McDonald’s cautious approach towards ultimate customer service (Vignali, 2001). The university prepares employees for various aspects of restaurant management and trains them to become thoroughly professional at the outlet.

However, there are certain controversies surrounding McDonald’s that show loopholes in their quality management process. For example, in 2012, a lady named Lieback filed the lawsuit against McDonald’s for not putting up ‘hot’ caution on coffee cups. Lieback’s hand was burnt, and she sued McDonald’s for committing negligence to customers’ safety and health (Cain, 2012). Furthermore, the controversy of Big Mac title to Irish fast-food chain (Telford, 2019), the recent black farmer’s lawsuit for ‘intentionally placing the restaurants in high crime locations and economically depressed locations’ (Togoh, 2020). The brand is also criticized in India for selling burgers made with beef which is considered sacred in the Hindu religion (News Roundup, 2001). Moreover, employee controversies of being non-paid or underpaid and the criticism on McDonald’s’ clown Ronald McDonald for dragging people towards unhealthy lifestyle adds to the company’s controversial image (Ward & Edmondson, 2015).

However, it is mandatory to assert that it is only the ultimate quality of McDonald’s food, efficient customer service, and effective marketing plans that have sustained the top position for McDonald’s in global fast-food industry. These issues identify loopholes in McDonald’s’ business operations that are lacking keen eye to avoid being prone to criticism and adverse impact on the business image. Hence, there is a need to develop a quality management plan for McDonald’s to rectify loopholes and establish a layout for quality improvement in McDonald’s outlets.

Figure 1: TQM at McDonald’s

Quality Management Plan (QMP) for McDonalds

Six Sigma: The DMAIC Improvement Process

The lean Six Sigma DMAIC model for McDonald’s begins with the ‘define’ stage. McDonald’s is currently serving millions of customers every hour (McDonaldAnswer, 2020). The define phase identifies broader customer base, strong brand image, quality-oriented products and efficient customer services as benchmark practices of McDonald’s. Therefore, McDonald’s should use customer feedback at its outlet, website, app, and the social media channels to improve customer service, product features, price, and general brand image. For example, McDonald’s offers customized deals on Christmas, Eid, Diwali, World Cup and more (Ahmed & Sheikh, 2016). After getting feedback, deals can be modified according to preferences shown by customers in feedback.

After explicit definition, McDonald’s needs to work on the ‘measure’ phase by improving the service delivery time at the outlet, home delivery and drive-thru. The average delivery time at the drive-thru is 248 seconds (Taylor, 2019) which should be measured and tailored to customer’s requirements. In the next step, McDonald’s should use efficient and adaptive measures to ‘analyze’ the situation and resolve conflicts in a better way. As the company promises to its customers that the brand is ‘truthful, ethical, and dependable’ (Skinner, 2019), therefore, the restaurant managers at all McDonalds should be trained for conflict management techniques which must be based on a win-win approach.

Moreover, the ‘improve’ feature of McDonald’s should be continuous and well-integrated. As a part of McDonald’s’ cultural compatibility with every country (Zhou, Zhang & Pahlberg, 2012), the brand should adopt the improvement plan, which is based on changing customer needs. For this purpose, the collection of data through a survey is suggested to be aware of current market needs and design the future policy accordingly.

As a part of lean Six Sigma, McDonald’s should make a strong ‘control’ policy by launching new performance appraisal and quality control methods every year. Employees should be aware of McDonald’s’ response to the failure of meeting quality standards in product preparation and service delivery. The lapse in any of these parameters should be covered by training employees through simulation methods.

The proposed TQM plan is expected to contribute to strategic growth and development of McDonald’s in aspects of food quality, customer service, employee training and wage policy and more. The plan has established a basic layout to follow to resolve any issue that needs quality improvement and achieve the strategic goal of sales growth. The plan is also expected to add in quality-oriented approach and develop a uniform policy to be implemented in all outlets whenever there is an issue of quality management and implementation.

Figure 2: DMAIC at McDonald’s

3.2 Recommendations for QMP

Currently, McDonald’s is working on the ‘pull’ method and JIT (just-in-time) method to manage inventory and supply chain method (Njihia, 2019). Although the technique is working well to manage timely order delivery to customers, the complaints of delay and absence of certain product flavours are still reported by customers (FT Reports, 2015). A makeshift to ‘push’ strategy is recommended in one outlet of McDonald’s and observe customer response for one month and to comply by strategic quality improvement process. If the strategy works well, it can be expanded to all outlets to reduce customer complaints. It is also recommended to McDonald’s to adopt ‘project-based’ improvement approach at all outlets to consider each outlet individually for its specific needs and wants (Sung, 2011). For example, in certain outlets, there could be more need of hiring trained staff than to work on order delivery time. McDonald’s is then recommended to tackle each outlet as a separate project and take suitable measures accordingly. The recommendation aims to contribute to the strategic improvement in the service of the outlet without putting an additional burden on finances. In case the plan would not serve the purpose, the McDonalds outlet will not suffer from a significant financial setback.

Another recommendation to McDonald’s is to continue to pay particularly focused interest on basic employee training to contribute to strategic objectives of quality management. The magic words of customer service improvement like ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘welcome’ should not be overlooked as they are a mandatory part of ultimate customer satisfaction. McDonald’s’ emerging competitor Chick-fil-A is already posing a threat for McDonald’s by giving discount deals, offering optimal quality products and an efficient customer service with employees obtaining good work-life balance (Kelso, 2018). However, McDonald’s is still lagging by numerous employee complaints of being non-paid/underpaid (Gould, 2010), lawsuits filed by customers and a rapid increase in the product price (Gibison, 2012). The need is to learn from competitors and improve these areas for maintaining quality in all aspects of business operations, mainly customer services by giving good incentives and work-life balance to employees so they can deliver efficient performance to the restaurant (TDT, 2019). The recommendation will contribute to employee satisfaction, long term engagement, development of organizational identity, and ultimately ensuring the performance achievement goals from employees.


McDonald’s is a renowned fast-food chain. Any lapse in quality management and rise in customer complaints indicate shady growth pattern for the brand. Therefore, McDonald’s should pay attention to all aspects of quality management and appropriately handle customer complaints and everyday issues at restaurants tactically. The report has identified some problems with McDonald’s such as health controversy, lawsuits, customer safety concerns, and employee complaints for which quality management plan is developed. A set of recommendations is presented to work on continuous process development, handle employee satisfaction, compete on strong parameters, and continue to sustain the top position in the global fast-food chain.

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