PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- McDonald's owners are pumping millions into remodeling their Palm Beach County restaurants this year to lure customers who want more than just a Happy Meal.
The fast-food chain is toning down the golden arches and sprucing up its interiors to appeal to diners who prefer the fast-casual style of Panera Bread or Chipotle. But it's not abandoning the concept of fast, as a major feature of the remodel is an emphasis on double drive-throughs.
Local owner Michele Heisner, whose restaurant at Okeechobee Boulevard and Congress Avenue is under renovation, said she thinks the most dramatic aspect of the remodel is the outside look. She has seven McDonald's in Palm Beach County and plans to renovate at least two of them.
Gone are the red mansard roofs. Instead the golden arches are represented by an eyebrow arch on the new flat roof. The golden arches still adorn signs and packaging.
"I believe it's trying to keep it modern and have a fresh new look," Heisner said.
This year, McDonald's plans to spend $2.9 billion for 1,300 new restaurants and more than 2,400 reimages, according to a news release on its strategic plan. In Palm Beach County, owners are expected to spend about $10 million on remodeling.
McDonald's has always been a competitor, The NPD Group restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs said. The fast-casual style is attracting customers even while growth for restaurants overall is stalled, she said.
"Many fast food and even casual restaurants find themselves in competition" with fast-casual restaurants, Riggs said. "Diners either traded up or traded down."
So McDonald's is changing its style to win that fast-casual customer.
As baby boomers get older, they use restaurants less but still want to eat on the premises, Riggs said. McDonald's new look addresses their needs and tries to tap into the 18-35 demographic, which is the highest user of fast-casual spots. Add some gourmet coffee, more quality and fresh ingredients and McDonald's expands its market.
"The thing with McDonald's, they really stay on top of the trends," Riggs said. "They study their customer and they adjust."
WBF Management - owner of 17 McDonald's from Royal Palm Beach to Boca Raton including a new one at Shoppes of Cresthaven on Military Trail near Palm Springs - recently began opening its lobbies 24 hours a day and added Wi-Fi. Along with the menu changes in recent years, the updates satisfy a variety of customers, WBF partner Mark Watson said.
"It gives Mom a reason to come to the store and enjoy an afternoon break while the kids have a Happy Meal," he said.
Both Watson and Heisner said the changes are focused on giving customers more options.
West Palm Beach resident Gladys Sousa was having lunch Monday at McDonald's. It's not usually her first choice for dining since she doesn't have young children or grandchildren, but she was impressed with the new look of the restaurant at Shoppes of Cresthaven . The olive green with a more muted red and yellow color scheme made the dining area more inviting, she said.
"I may eat here more often now that I can have a salad and fat-free latte," she said.
What the renovated McDonald's eateries will feature:
- Dual drive-throughs
- Flat roof with golden 'eyebrow' arch
- Zones for family dining, solo dining
- Flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi