6 Powerful Lessons McDonald’s Taught Me About Business

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Like so many teenagers around the world, my introduction to the working life was at the local McDonald’s store. I still remember my first day as if it were yesterday. A keen 14 year old eager to get into the working world and earn her way. The smell of the fryers, the hustle of the staff, the excitement was electric. Little did I know that years later I would sit back and be grateful for these powerful lessons McDonald’s taught me about business.

1 – There is a Process for Everything

When your business prides itself on consistency on a global scale, processes formulate a significant part of your business. We all recognise the golden arches and know that buying a Big Mac in Australia is the same as buying one in America, Thailand, Spain and Singapore.

McDonald’s has a process for every single part of their business. Each menu item has a process for how it is made, even the way the fries are salted are part of an overall process. This allows for consistency and outlines a standard that needs to be met.

This can be the same for any business. Think of each area of your business. Have you ever thought of outlining the steps? What steps do you take when posting a blog post? What about what steps you take when uploading a new product to your store? Or emailing a client? Outlining your processes can help you streamline your business.

2 – Every Process Can Be Taught

Not many people would think of McDonald’s as a massive training agency but considering they employ over 55,000 new staff every year, throughout the globe, their ability to teach every process of their business is pretty darn good. This is one of the biggest lessons McDonald’s taught me about business that has changed the way I look at my business structure.

Think about it, their turnover of staff is relatively high, and for a large number of people (myself included) McDonald’s is their first taste of working a ‘real’ job. They have detailed their processes in such a way that every single aspect of their business can be taught.

Now, refer to the steps you outlined for each area of your business. By having these processes outlined, you can easily outsource them. Whether you hire a staff member, a VA or have the hubby pitch in to help, outlining your steps allows for your process to be taught.

3 – First Impressions Count

We’ve all been to a McDonald’s store once or twice (or even more…) in our lives. The training that you receive at McDonald’s is all about ‘wowing’ your customers. The aim is to meet each customer with a big smile and a hello and to keep them happy. The dining area is aimed to be kept clean and comfortable and you’re encouraged to stay, relax and enjoy your meal – and ultimately coming back for more.

All of this falls under the ‘first impressions’. Imagine if you enter a McDonald’s store and are met by a grouchy teenager who is muttering under his breath about having to clean, the dining area is dirty and doesn’t really have anywhere to sit, the floor is sticky from spilt drinks and it takes forever to get served. Are you going to come back?

Now apply this to your business. Look at your business through the eyes of the customer and see how it looks. If you have a storefront, walk in the door as if you were a customer. What do you see? If your business is online, jump on your site from someone else’s computer – is it user friendly, does it load fast, does it make you want to stay?

This isn’t just one of the lessons McDonald’s taught me about business but one that you will hear time and time again when talking to anyone about the importance of first impressions.

I never imagined how grateful I would be for the lessons McDonald's taught me about business that were so powerful I still apply them to my business today.

4 – Know Your Market

McDonald’s marketing is incredible. Do you remember when they had that catchy jingle for the Big Mac and if you came into store and could recite it under a set amount of time you’d get a free Big Mac? Brilliant (sadly I still remember the entire jingle years later…).

And what about the golden arches that are recognisable anywhere in the world.

But even better than all of this is their ability to hone in on a particular area of the market.

The best example to use is children. It’s even part of McDonald’s training to greet children separately to their parents, to get down on their level and say hello. Then there’s the Happy Meals, the playground, the bright colours, the toys and the excitement of it all. For a child it is a complete wonderland.

And this doesn’t happen accidently. It’s strategic. Targeting children in turn brings families into their stores – and families spend more money, they develop an emotional connection to a place (kids will talk about it for days – “Remember when we went to McDonald’s…?”) and they promote both the convenience of Drive-Thru and the escape available by sitting back and having a coffee while watching your children play.

They know the market they are targeting, they know what appeals to them and they know how to make them feel like they want to keep coming back for more.

Do you have the same level of understanding of your market?

5 – Over Deliver, Always

This has been one of the key mantras for everything I do in business – ‘Under Promise and Over Deliver’. It is something I continuously refer back to and measure everything I do against. And the first place I learnt this was from McDonald’s.

Remember what I said about ‘wowing’ your customers? This was just another part of that sentiment. And it’s one that can be carried through to every aspect of your business.

Are you promising the world and seriously under delivering? In your sales pitches and landing pages what promises are you making? Do you promise that if someone takes your Instagram course they will gain 10k subscribers in 3 months? Is that possible? Will they get it or are you overpromising and under delivering?

Giving your customers more than they expect is a brilliant way to have them continue to come back for more.

6 – You Cannot Do Everything Yourself

A McDonald’s store isn’t run by a single person. Each transaction that occurs, does so in a broken down, piece by piece way. Even when you go and order, your order has anywhere from 2 – 5 or more people involved. For a simple order. Because it simply cannot all be done by one person.

Then, during the rush periods, the people who are strongest in a particular area take control and delegate to others. This means things get done quickly and efficiently.

So with this in mind, how does your business run? Are you trying to be the Jill of all trades and doing everything by yourself? While this may be okay when you’re starting out, how is this going to fare when you get to a ‘rush period’?

This has been a valuable lesson as an entrepreneur – you can’t do everything yourself so don’t be afraid to hire someone to do a job (particularly if it’s one you don’t want to do).

Each of these lessons learnt at McDonald’s helped shape my understanding of business, my understanding of being an entrepreneur and helped create the desire I have to give my readers so much more than they expect so they fall in love with my business, my brand and myself.

Did you ever work at McDonald’s? What lessons did you learn there that you still apply to your life today?


  1. Hey Krystal, totally agree with McDonald’s teaching great life lessons, especially repeating orders and giving away free apple pie if they are a minute late to serve. A lot of customer service lessons learned I would say, although the food is tad bit unhealthy, haha. Thank you for the great post, love it!!

    1. They really are superstars in the customer service field. You don’t really gain the traction they have without it. And the healthy food is just another way they have listened to their customers – there’s so many more healthy options now, far more than when I started working there 15 years ago! But I’m still a sucker for a cheeseburger (with fries on it too of course…).

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