NEW YORK — Will McDonald’s be able to lift employee morale at its 13,700 U.S. restaurants with uniforms from celebrity brands or high-profile designers? Quite possibly. Will they help differentiate the brand from its competitors? Perhaps.
But designer duds are unlikely to increase business at the fast-food giant by stirring loyalty in customers and making them more likely to return to McDonald’s than straying elsewhere with their food dollars. That’s according to marketing consultant Brand Keys, which has found the type of uniforms employees wear make an ultraslim one-half of 1 percent contribution to customer loyalty — and subsequent profitability — based on an index of 100.
A clean uniform, by comparison, makes a contribution to repeat business that’s about twice as large, indexing 1 percent.
With a handful of exceptions, said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff, “uniforms in America are seen as utilitarian and ubiquitous.” The occupations for which uniforms have produced a double-digit contribution to loyalty include doctors, nurses, airline pilots and law enforcement officials. Work uniforms worn by women produced sales of $2.3 billion for the apparel business in the 12 months ended in June, according to NPD Group.
McDonald’s said in July it had begun exploring whether to outfit its crews in uniforms that would be designed by one or more high-profile players in the fashion business — an effort still in preliminary stages, reported Bill Whitman, a spokesman for McDonald’s USA. Brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Sean Jean and Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm could be in the running, according to the July 4th edition of Advertising Age, a report Whitman declined to confirm. McDonald’s has yet to begin any such negotiations, he added.
The idea is under consideration, the McDonald’s spokesman noted, because employees are part of the restaurant’s brand experience. “When customers enter our restaurants, they enter our brand,” he added.
That said, McDonald’s is “at least months away” from a deal with an apparel designer or brand to create the next generation of the chain’s crew uniforms, Whitman related. A review of the apparel donned by McDonald’s restaurant staff has ensued every two years for the past several years to consider whether the uniforms are in sync with the times, comfortable and efficient.