McDonald's franchisee of 49 years reveals why he had to 'get the hell out'

McDonald’s bloated menu has driven one 49-year franchisee out of the business.

Al Jarvis, who worked for McDonald’s for nearly 50 years, told Bloomberg Businessweek that complicated new menu items like espresso drinks and the McWrap caused chaos in his kitchens, dragged down food quality, and led to excessively long lines at the drive thrus — which is a death sentence in the fast-food industry.

He said he loved his job with McDonald’s, but as he neared his 50th anniversary with the company that he had worked for his entire life, he realised he couldn’t go on.

“I wanted to get the hell out,” he told Businessweek.

Jarvis sold his stores and left McDonald’s in November 2014.

“I don’t think they know what they want to do,” he told Businessweek of McDonald’s executives. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s go back to basics,’ then they’re doing these customised burgers, and they’re talking about all-day breakfast.”

“I feel sorry for the managers and the crew. That’s not our niche. We make burgers and fries.”

Jarvis’s complaints are similar to those voiced anonymously by dozens of current McDonald’s franchisees in surveys by former Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski.

In the most recent survey, franchisees rated their six-month outlook for McDonald’s business as the worst in the 12-year history of the survey.

“At least half of the operators in my region are on the verge of collapse,” one franchisee wrote in response to the survey. “With minimum wage for fast-food workers potentially increasing to incredibly high levels, we are facing a crisis situation.”

Another said: “They say they are going to simplify the menu and then add the Sirloin Burger and new ingredients. They are continually forcing new products on the owners to try and drive sales, but the new products continue to slow service and frustrate managers and crew in the restaurants.”

The menu has grown 42.4% in the past seven years, to 121 items from 85 items in 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Same-store sales at US McDonald’s have declined in each of the past seven quarters. The company is battling falling traffic, increasing competition from fast-casual chains including Chipotle and Panera, and an eroded brand perception among American consumers.

The company’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, unveiled his turnaround plan in May. He said he planned to turn McDonald’s into a “modern, progressive burger company” by restructuring management, refranchising restaurants, and listening more to customers.

Since Easterbrook joined the company, McDonald’s has cut several menu items.

But the company has also added some items, including a premium Sirloin burger (which has since been discontinued) and new mid-priced sandwiches.

The chain is now planning to start serving breakfast all day, instead of cutting it off at 10:30 a.m., and it’s rolling out a program that allows people to customise their burgers with premium ingredients using touch-screen kiosks.

Most McDonald’s restaurants are adding extra toasters and other equipment — which franchisees have to pay for — to make sure all-day breakfast doesn’t slow things down in the kitchen.

McDonald’s can’t afford to get any slower. The company’s average drive-thru wait is 3 minutes, 9.5 seconds, which is the longest average wait time in at least 15 years, according to a study by QSR Magazine.

Jarvis returns to his former McDonald’s often for coffee and visits with his old employees, but he said he doesn’t miss the daily scramble behind the counter.

“I’m not going to miss that at all,” Jarvis told Bloomberg.

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