No matter what you think of McDonald's, the company's shrill colors are certainly not easily forgotten. A bright, mustard-colored M on a ketchup-hued background, the signs are almost blinding in their gaudiness.
In Germany, though, the company's colors are changing. While the iconic golden arches will keep their color, they will now be on a green background instead of the bright red one. The reason? McDonald's Germany wants to reposition the restaurant as a bastion of environmental friendliness. Ronald McDonald is becoming a tree hugger.
"Simplicity and a focus on the essentials is the new design philosophy," Holger Beeck, deputy head of McDonald's in Germany, said in a Monday statement. All 40 new restaurants set to open in 2010 will adhere to the new design sensibilities. In addition, the façade of the new restaurants will include natural stone and wood. By the end of the year, more than 100 McDonald's restaurants will be outfitted with the new design style. "With the new appearance, we want to clarify our responsibility and relationship with natural resources," Beeck said.
While trying to project its new, greener image, McDonald's still faces criticism from environmental groups due to their marketing mainly meat products and the massive amounts of packaging that comes with them. In 2008, McDonald's had to redesign the lids of its popular McFlurry treat after hedgehogs were found dead in the containers. As many as 100 of the creatures were found to have starved to death after getting their heads stuck in the lid openings. It took two years before the lids were redesigned.
But there is some truth to the new eco-friendly image. According to Monday's press release, McDonald's is a leader on the Dow Jones sustainability index. In April last year, McDonald's Germany opened its first "EE-tec" restaurant in Achim, near Bremen. It was ceremoniously opened with the flick of a light switch, revealing energy-efficient appliances. According to the company's Web site, its ubiquitous wrappers are made out of 72 percent recycled packaging while its tray-liners, napkins and toilet paper are made out of 100 percent recycled paper.
The German-subsidiary of the US giant is already known for pioneering products in design. Though the first McCafe opened in Australia, the concept originated in Germany. Today, there are 612 McCafes in Germany's 1,350 restaurants. A new pilot project will soon see the first McCafe's opened without being attached to its burger-and-fries-serving counterpart.
More than 2.58 million people eat at McDonald's daily in Germany, while the company employs 58,000 people.