McDonalds goes Retro

Filed under: Hidden Orlando,Just For Fun |

McDonald’s golden arches go retro in Orlando

McDonald’s franchisee says makeover can help cook up sales at Orlando store

December 13, 2007

Recalling its hamburger-stand past, McDonald’s is building a store in Orlando that evokes its original arch-adorned buildings.

The eye-catching restaurant on East Colonial Drive is slated to open Wednesday. It will be the first of its kind in Metro Orlando and among a handful of 1950s-style stores throughout the country.

The store includes hallmarks of early McDonald’s restaurants such as a slanted roofline, glass-plated storefront and sweeping golden arches on the sides of the structure.

Strong sales at existing throwback stores persuaded franchisee Gilchrist Enterprises Inc. to replace its aging McDonald’s on East Colonial near Primrose Drive and invest in a new restaurant.

“We’ve had our eye on this building design,” said Howard Hughes, director of operations for Gilchrist Enterprises, which operates seven McDonald’s in Central Florida including two at Orlando International Airport. “It seems to be a hit with customers and really has an excellent track record for improving sales,” Hughes said.

McDonald’s franchisees typically pick up the tab for building or remodeling a store. Hughes said the retro-style costs about 20 percent more than a typical McDonald’s store design.

His store will also include the company’s new R Gym, touted as an exercise spot for children with climbing walls, basketball goals and slides. Hughes said the East Colonial location also will be among the first in the region to sell McDonald’s new drinks, including cappuccino and latte, starting in mid-February.

During the past couple of years, franchisees of the fast-food chain have been revamping locations throughout Central Florida.

Operators have been doing away with the company’s bright red-and-yellow color schemes and faux mansard roofs. Some new store interiors sport more-subdued lighting, earth-tone colors, flat-screen TVs and lounge chairs.

The makeover is part of McDonald’s overall goal to improve sales at its existing U.S. locations. Other moves include adding more healthful menu items such as salads and fruit cups and extending store hours.

The recipe seems to be working, with the U.S. stores posting a sharp rise in sales. But the restaurant chain isn’t without its critics. Nutrition experts say the fast-food chain’s menu is still loaded with high-calorie and fatty foods. The company also recently took heat for its marketing to children in Seminole County public schools.

Eli Portnoy, founder and chief executive of the Portnoy Group, a marketing consulting firm with offices in Orlando and Los Angeles, said McDonald’s was wise to design stores that reference its roots, which could prove popular with baby boomers nostalgic for that era.

“They’ve lost the arch component as part of their brand identity,” he said. “If you really take a look at most of their storefronts, you really can’t tell the difference between them and any other fast-food stores.”

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