Craig Morris , May 13, 2019
Consistency In The Drive-Thru Lane
I always marvel when I’ve traveling overseas—anywhere outside the U.S.—at just how recognizable the iconic McDonald's famed “golden arches” are. While driving this past week from Brussels, Belgium to Bremen Germany (with stops across South Holland) to meet with various Wild Alaska Pollock customers and allied industry, I, from time to time, found myself in need of nourishment.
Each time the pangs of hunger overcame me, I spotted those golden arches alongside the highway and was instantly comforted. I’ve felt that feeling countless times throughout my career when traveling abroad for any length of time—sometimes you just need food that reminds you of home. You know—no matter what McDonald's in what remote corner of the world you walk in to—they are going to have a hamburger, French fries, milkshakes and the famed (and my favorite) Filet-o-Fish sandwich. They might call it something different, you may have to order it on a computer pad or in broken English—but it will eventually emerge, in the same packaging, in the same way…and most importantly…it will taste the same no matter where you are.
That incredible feat of consistency and quality is something that is hard to come by and has been both revered and criticized for years and years. Personally, I think there’s something to be said for always knowing just what to expect; just what you’re going to get. And I doubt I’m alone in that—judging from the thirty minute wait at the drive-thru somewhere outside Naarden, Netherlands, I’m not the only one who craves tried-and-true McDonald's.
I think a lot of people mistake consistency for boredom. That couldn’t be further from the truth: I think consistency when it comes to quality, to delivering excellence, to service leads to brand and customer loyalty that is above reproach and that has serious staying power.
When I toured through the Netherlands, I heard the story of famed Kibbeling. Kibbeling was once made from cod cheeks, hence the name: “kabeljauwwang” which became kibbeling over the years. Nowadays, the popular street food is often made with Wild Alaska Pollock because of the mild taste of the fish, consistent availability and attractive price point. Cod was inconsistent in all of those attributes—including taste—which allowed an opening for Wild Alaska Pollock which the industry has capitalized on.
Consistency is what builds a brand—builds a name. I’ve previously talked about how the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers is working to build a global narrative, awareness and recognition for Wild Alaska Pollock and the best way to do that is to make sure we’re all talking about our perfect protein in the same way. Consistency is king when it comes to helping consumers around the world know our story and our “super fish.” After all, studies show that people have to hear things at least three times to remember it—so we all have to be saying the same thing, over and over, in order to break through the noise.
Consistency also means that we have to continuously improve and continue to deliver excellence—to exceed expectations. When you deliver a product that people come to expect to be a certain way—you’ve set the bar for yourself and must continue to deliver. Every week when I go through the clips from our media monitoring service, I can’t help but chuckle over some of the photos shared on social media of the famed Filet-o-Fish sandwich which show the final product not at all presented in the way people have come to expect. McDonald’s knows that they have to put forth the best, every time, otherwise people will be quick to criticize their lack of perfection, their lack of consistency. That’s why you dutifully see McDonald's responding to every post showing missing cheese or too much tartar sauce—they know that they can—and people expect them—to do better.
Consistency can be a challenge, but it’s one that our entire industry should readily—and gladly—take on because it will pay huge dividends for us in the long-term. We have the benefit of having a protein that is practically perfect in every way, so as far as I see it, our job is to support that protein in every possible way and put our best foot forward, always. The protein itself when it comes to taste, nutritional value, sustainability and more—is perfectly consistent. It’s our job now to help consumers develop the same loyal and dare I say comforting following they have for the golden arches for our fish.
Signing off from the drive-thru.