Five Business Lessons I Learned from McDonald’s

I’ll admit it; for most of my life I was a fast food addict.  I’ve always enjoyed the taste of greasy fries and a burger, along with a large chocolate milk shake.  I know the food isn’t good for me, but I love it anyway.  Of all the fast food joints out there, I probably visited McDonald’s the most.  Their stores are everywhere, the prices are inexpensive, and most importantly, you get your food quickly.

Having been an entrepreneur myself for the past 13 years now, I’ve learned a lot from McDonald’s.  I’ve always been fascinated by how “fine tuned” their empire is.  Every McDonald’s is pretty much the same.  The experience is always the same.  The food is always the same.  As a result, they have become one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.

I think every business owner and network marketer can learn something from McDonald’s.  I know I’ve learned a lot from McDonald’s by studying their business model.  Here are the top five business lessons I learned from McDonald’s.

# 1 Systems are the Key to Success in Business

Systems really are the key to success in business.  Contrary to popular belief you don’t need superstar performers in your business if you have good systems in place.

A system is nothing more than a standardized, documented way of doing something.  With a good system, you can hire just about anyone off the street and still get good results.

Without systems you will need high performers.  And high performers are very expensive to hire and even harder to keep.  If I had to choose between having a good system or having high performing employees, I would choose the system every single time.

My Take: If you own a business of your own, you should take the time to create your own system.  The easiest way to do this is with an operations manual.

I suggest you document every aspect of your business and put it into a manual.  Write down how you take orders, how you ship items, how you answer the phone, how you clean the office, and every other aspect of your business.

Once you do that, you can train your team and give every new hire a copy of the manual.  This lets you create a standardized way of doing things and reduces the amount of human error in your business.

# 2 You Don’t Need the Best Quality to Make it Big in Business

We all know that McDonald’s doesn’t make the best quality food.  No one goes there for the food quality anyway.  People go there because the food is made quickly, it’s cheap, and the experience is always the same.

My Take: I’m not against having the top quality product or service, but the moral of the story is you don’t need one to make it big in business.  Ultimately, you need to create a unique selling proposition for your business and decide what you want to be known for.  You could focus on quality, price, speed of delivery or anything else that is important to you.

# 3 There Is Lots of Money in Repeat Business

McDonald’s makes lots of money from repeat business.  I’d bet the average customer goes there at least once a week, maybe even more.  If the average person spends $5 per meal and goes to McDonald’s once a week for a year, that’s $260 per year per customer for McDonald’s.

If a customer stays a customer for 30, 40 or 50+ years, McDonald’s can make a boatload of money from each customer.  More importantly, you have many folks who visit McDonald’s SEVERAL times per week, every week.

My Take: Do what you can to get repeat business.  It’s a lot easier and cheaper to make sales to current and former customers than it is to go out and find a new customer.

# 4 Attract the Kids and the Parents will Show Up Too

Attract the kids and the parents will show up too.  Lots of McDonald’s advertising is geared toward kids.  They know that if the kids want the food, they will convince their parents to bring them to McDonald’s.  Best of all, when the parents show up with their kids they will order food for themselves, too.

My Take: There’s lots of money to be made in businesses catered toward children.  Industries such as kids’ movies, theme parks, and toy stores are big business.  If you can find a way to tailor your business toward children, you should at least look into it.

# 5 Location, Location, Location

McDonald’s owns some of the best real estate in the world.  They know that if you have a targeted, busy location, people will show up.  You could argue that McDonald’s is really in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.

My Take: Pick a good location for your business.  Your real estate assets could easily surpass the value of your business and other business assets.  A marginal business in a good location will normally outperform a great business in a bad location.

BONUS TIP: Franchises Work!

Franchises work.  It’s a proven fact that most businesses fail within their first five years, and most of those fail within their first year.

Historically, franchises have a much better success rate than a traditional business.

If you are thinking about going into business for yourself, it might be in your best interest to consider a franchise, so you can partner with a proven system, rather than trying to figure everything out on your own.  Although there are normally higher start up costs with franchises compared to traditional businesses, it’s often money well spent.

Final Thoughts

I think any business person can learn a lot about business by studying McDonald’s.  The company definitely has its act together.  While there are lots of critics about McDonald’s, no one can argue that it is a fine tuned business machine.

What are your thoughts about McDonald’s?  What business lessons do you think we can learn from McDonald’s?  To share your thoughts just leave a comment below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Disclaimer: McDonald’s is a registered trademark.  I am in no way affiliated with the company.

chuck holmes


Chuck Holmes
Network Marketing Professional (since 2002)
Author, Blogger, & Entrepreneur

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6 thoughts on “Five Business Lessons I Learned from McDonald’s”

  1. Perfect post summarizing the lessons McDonald’s teaches us all. I’ve met people who had the “best” product or service in their specific industry and they were convinced that that alone would take them where they desired to be. And then they sat there and watched people with lesser quality products and services outsell them because the other people offered more convenience or continuity that people appreciated more than the quality of the product. Of course, that certainly doesn’t mean that you give people trash but it definitely helps you to put other elements into perspective.

  2. Personally, I am a Burger King person over McDonalds, but this post is completely dead on. I especially like the part about attracting the kids. We see this in many establishments these days. Big name stores put toys and candy near the height of children to arouse them. they grab the items and the parents feel an obligation to purchase. I believe network marketers can use some of their items to attract the kids too. Maybe even just carrying a bag of candy when you visit with people with children. Just an act of kindness towards their children will create a sense of respect.

    Great post Charles!

      1. I am glad you mentioned ethics Chuck. It seems to me that many businesses are losing their ethics and the prime aspect is just profits. I really do not appreciate how some huge outlet stores (I won’t mention names) put toys that can easily be broken down at the level of small children. I have seen managers force parents to buy an item because the child broke it. It seemed to me like a ploy just to sell items because they knew children would break them. I believe that is a case of evil ethics.

        Yes, we can market to children, but we should always consider beforehand of we as parents would be understanding if someone else did it with our children.

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