The children’s hospital where I work recently announced it will be getting rid of its onsite McDonald’s. The restaurant will be out by the end of the year. It joins a long line of hospitals that have ejected their golden arches, including Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The Cleveland Clinic once tried to do so, but couldn't get out of its contract.
Why would a hospital seek to evict McDonald’s from its premises?
In a nation confronting epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, healthcare facilities do not want to encourage fast-food eating patterns. No hospital wants to “send the wrong message.” A 2006 study showed that people who see a McDonald’s in a hospital tend to rate its food as healthier. Perhaps its mere presence smacks of endorsement.
McDonald’s child-centric marketing focus is also a source of scrutiny: Happy Meals with toys that are often tied to children’s movies, Ronald the clown, playgrounds, etcetera. This might encourage unwise eating behaviors at an early age.
Yet McDonald’s must be doing something well. They are the world’s leading food service retailer, serving 69 million people each day in more than 34,000 restaurants in 118 countries. Why do people eat there? Their food is consistent. It’s available at all times of the day—an especially important service in a hospital, where schedules are frequently disrupted. Plus the service is generally fast and efficient and the prices are relatively low. McDonald’s is also a major economic force, with over 1.8 million employees worldwide.