Big business adding too many options

Recently, I heard of a new restaurant opening on East Wooster Street this fall. I was intrigued, and this week, I finally visited this new place.

Outside sat two café-style tables, with styled seats and umbrellas, like you’d expect to find in Paris. Inside, there were two wide-screen plasma TVs, modern light fixtures and seating, designed for the customer’s comfort.

A fireplace stood in the middle of the restaurant, straddled by shiny black leather chairs. Such a fireplace is perfect for the bitter cold Ohio winters that will be coming soon.

As I looked at the restaurant, I wondered what famous designer could have created this place. Was it some legend of European design? Or a young American prodigy?

Feeling a slight rumble in my stomach, I approached one of the waiters working there. They must have top-notch food to go with such a lavish décor.

“Please, sir, may I have your finest cuts of chicken, topped with a special sauce. I would also like potatoes on the side and your best drink,” I kindly requested.

The man nodded, smiled, and replied, “One McNugget meal with a Coke” that’ll be five dollars.”

Yes, folks, the “fancy” new restaurant that opened on East Wooster wasn’t some five-star Italian place, or even the new Chipotle. It was the renovated McDonald’s across the street from the Harshman Quad.

Now I admit, it’s the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen – but I question if all of the additions were necessary. No place with a drive-thru window can really be considered a place of fine dining, can it?

The renovated McDonald’s isn’t alone, though. Increasingly, other places I have frequently visited are piling on the additions, maybe more than is necessary.

For example, take Meijer or any of the other supermarket chains. They’re a prime example of perhaps too much of a good thing.

In the ancient world of the 1990s, supermarkets were a place to shop for groceries, medicine, and household items. Today, they include banks, cell phone dealerships, coffee bars, photography studios, and even optometrists, dentists, and doctor’s offices.

Even bigger warehouse stores are expanding into new areas, like auto financing and travel services. Sam’s Club offers health-insurance plans to its customers, while rival Costco sells caskets on top of their own health insurance plan.

These stores have become so various in their services that you could practically live in their stores. In fact, several people have tried to, only to get kicked out of the store after a few days.

So what does adding on mean to customers? In the case of McDonalds, the renovations are great for those eating in, but for drive-thru and take-out customers, it does nothing.

Same with the big box stores and their increasing services. People might use an in-store bank or coffee shop, but they’d be less likely to stop in at the doctor who keeps his office in Wal-Mart.

And yes, I’m serious about their being doctors at Wal-Mart, at least in the South. Target has also been testing this idea in the Great Lakes region as well.

Something just doesn’t seem right about going to Wal-Mart to get emergency care rather than a hospital. I don’t think I’d enjoy getting treated at a hospital that sold tires, electronics, and furniture.

Businesses need to keep in mind that adding more doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re making things better or easier. Sometimes, they’re just adding more than they need.

Send comments to Brian Szabelski at [email protected].