Cantalupo’s Challenge

Jim Cantalupo has done a great job revitalizing McDonalds. The challenge now is to keep it up.

It has been a long road back. But after 30 years at McDonald's, Cantalupo, 60, knows there's an even longer way to go. Among the things he has on tap for 2004: national introduction of the Adult Happy Meal (entree salad, bottle of water and pedometer); expansion of domestic McCafe coffeehouses well beyond the current 10; and remodeling of thousands of McDonald's stores with a hipper design inside and out.

All this for a brand that turns 50 in two years. "We're going to be 50, but we don't want to look 50," Cantalupo says. "The McDonald's brand is forever young."

At least, it's desperately trying to be. Cantalupo is forever looking for the ketchup stains. Underneath that wide smile, he scares marginal McDonald's store operators with his frankness. His obsession with the basics is relentless: fast service, hot food and clean restaurants.

He has a passion for walking into McDonald's restaurants unannounced, then handing the store manager a no-holds-barred scorecard. It's clear the often-damning scorecard came from Cantalupo — he has hundreds of scorecards printed on the backs of his business cards.

"When I see something wrong, someone's gonna hear about it," Cantalupo says. During an unannounced stroll he recently took through Chicago-area restaurants with Charlie Bell, worldwide president, the two spotted some McDonald's stores that made them cringe. Cold food. Slow service. Dirty bathrooms.

The toughest part of his job, in my opinion, is to motivate employees who make $6 an hour. People don't work hard any more just for the sake of doing a good job. That is why I am not surprised at cold food and dirty bathrooms. Cantalupo can offer all the new products in the world, but unless the employees at the front lines are customer service oriented, McDonalds won't go anywhere.

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