You know that weird but persistent wish in the back of your mind? That thing you’ve always want to do, but over time you just accept the fact that it’ll probably never happen? That’s how I always felt about eating at a German McDonald’s. I don’t know why, but ever since hearing my high school German teacher talk about it, I’ve wanted to go.
My soul (unfortunately) belonged to the Golden Arches for over four years. Through college and for some brief time afterwards, I worked my way through every position in the restaurant. From ninja sandwich maker…
to chatty drive-thru girl…
to full-time McManager…
I even blogged about it for a while (mostly about the good things). I made lifelong friends and learned a few valuable leadership and life skills, but I never want to step behind that counter again. I also have no interest in eating at an American McDonald’s again, and have successfully avoided it. But as for German McDonald’s, I can definitely open a place in my heart.
On the bus ride from Rammstein Air Base to Hohenfels the day after landing in Germany, our driver told us we would be making a pitstop at McDonald’s for lunch.
I tried to play it cool, and managed to stifle my giddy yelp, but scared the crap out of my sleeping husband when I hastily shook him out of a coma.
Its modern architecture and modular-like booth seating looked just like any of the newer McDonald’s in the US. But it was definitely much cleaner. Even the bathrooms were clean! And remember, this was a McDonald’s at a rest stop.
There was also something remarkably different about the layout. The McCafé has its own counter in the restaurant. If you crave fancy coffee drinks, deli-style sandwiches or pastries, you order them separately from the rest of your meal. Smart, because the employees can divide and conquer, instead of scrambling all over each other in a cramped space.
Why hasn’t America done this? Oh, I know! First, because American McDonald’s franchisees are focused on one thing: keeping labor costs low. They would rather over-stress a small number of employees than pay an additional two people to run a McCafé counter (rolls eyes).
And second, because American customers want everything handed to them through a drive-thru window. From what I can tell, you have a limited selection on which coffee you can order in the German McDrive. You can choose from four items: regular coffee, tea, cappuccino, or latte. If you want a hazelnut chocolate macchiato, you better take your happy butt inside to the McCafé counter and interact with some friendly Germans. Trust me when I say it’s worth taking the time to dine-in, especially for breakfast. I’ll write a post on this later.
Most of the menu items are in English, because McDonald’s is, of course, extremely American. The cashiers also speak pretty good English. My German friend told me prospective employees must know English to get a job at McDonald’s. I don’t know if that’s true for every German McDonald’s, but it definitely seemed true at this one.
The menu had a good variety of stuff to choose from. All the McDonald’s staples are the same–nuggets, fries, Big Mac, etc. There were also some distinctly German items like a Nürnburger (sausage links with mustard and onions on a roll) and a quinoa veggie burger. Some McDonald’s sell beer, but only if they have a special licensing agreement with a German brewer. I looked into this further, and typically it’s the older restaurants that have these licensing agreements. The newer restaurants aren’t too concerned about it.
We ordered a Chicken McWrap and a Hamburger Royal TS (like a Quarter Pounder). Our first impressions were really good! The wrap had lettuce, tomato, honey mustard, and crispy chicken in a spinach tortilla.
The burger was surprisingly good also, and was topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. We didn’t order any fries, because neither of us care for them. In retrospect, I wish I had, just to make a comparison. We also got two small sodas. And I loved it, because the smalls were actually small.
When we were done eating (and enjoying some sun on the patio), we looked for the trash can and couldn’t find one anywhere. One of those awkward situations where we didn’t want to walk around looking stupid, but we also didn’t want to look stupid by asking someone. Eventually, we saw people sliding their trays into a rack. You just slide it in there with everything on it, and the employees wheel the rack away when it’s full and sort the recyclable materials. Germany is very environmentally conscious. Recycling is the norm, and it’s also the law. Businesses like McDonald’s would be in serious trouble if they were putting recyclable materials with their waste.
Now look at the sad state of American McDonald’s. I can tell you that as of two years ago, the only things being separated from the trash were cardboard boxes and old vegetable oil. Customers didn’t have the option to recycle or compost anything at the restaurant. Maybe this was the decision of the franchisees I worked for, or maybe it was McDonald’s-wide, but in either case, it’s messed up. Especially when we’re talking about a business whose carbon footprint is already a monstrosity.
Note: I haven’t stepped foot inside an American McDonald’s for two years, so if these facts have changed, somebody tell me. Nothing would please me more than to be corrected on this topic.
So far, I have nothing but good things to say about German McDonald’s. Is it still fast food? Yes. But, the ingredients (especially the produce) seem to be of better quality and are prepared with more care. Combine that with the clean and friendly atmosphere, and American fast food just doesn’t stand a chance. I can’t wait to go back and try a Nürnburger or a Nutella muffin!