I went to McDonald's in France and discovered how America is doing it all wrong

I recently went on a trip to southern France and noticed that the McDonald’s restaurants there are miles ahead of the franchises I’ve seen in America.

They take McCafé seriously over there. Most American and UK franchises I’ve been to incorporate the McCafé drinks menu into the regular food menu, but the McDonald’s restaurants I saw in Marseille, France had an entirely separate area for the café, which looked more like a Starbucks than a fast food restaurant.

The menu is illustrated on colourful display boards behind the café-style counter, and pastries are displayed in a large glass case.

They have a pretty impressive spread for a McDonald’s:

They even sell macaroons!

And cookies are placed in pretty glass jars:

The smoothies advertised on the board behind the cookies are actually served in glass jars, too, rather than the plastic cups you’d see in other McDonald’s cafés.

I didn’t try anything from the café since I’d just filled up on lunch, but I got a chance to try the regular food while I was waiting through a train delay in the Marseille station.

The ordering system is pretty sophisticated. Customers place their orders on touch screens that allow people to select different languages (which I found helpful since my high-school level French is pretty rusty) and peruse the menu.

They have a bleu cheese burger featured, which is a step above most American offerings:

The machine lets you pay by card and then gives you a ticket to take to the counter where the food is placed:

I had a choice of sauces for my fries, and I went with their traditional pommes frites sauce. It tasted like malt vinegar aioli and was way better than ketchup (even if it looks a little gross).

I’m not the only who’s been impressed by the spread offered in French McDonald’s restaurants.

NPR pointed out in 2012 that eating in McDonald’s in France “doesn’t feel like fast food” because they are spacious, “tastefully decorated,” and “encourage people to take their time” while they’re enjoying their meals.

A paper from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business reported that same year that McDonald’s has been so successful in France because the chain has adapted to French eating habits, NPR noted.

And the McCafé near the Louvre in Paris has a four-star rating on TripAdvisor. One reviewer from Glasgow, Scotland said she at ate the McCafé for breakfast every morning while she stayed in Paris because it was cheap and she liked the macaroons.

While I wouldn’t advise skipping an authentic French café to eat at McDonald’s, it’s a good option to have when you’re looking for something quick and familiar while travelling.

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