Recently, McDonald’s announced a new McBike packaging initiative, aimed at making bike-thru traffic possible at their 36,258 restaurants worldwide (Statista). Launched in Copenhagen, Denmark—one of the most cyclist-dense cities in the world—McBike is also scheduled for launch other global cities known for their cycling populations.
The McBike package is relatively simple; a little folder with two pockets for a meal, a hole in the bottom for a drink, and a looped hook at the top to go over handlebars. What the package has created is a bit more complex - an entire new market for the fast food chain.
A quick look at commuter biking
According to The League of American Bicyclists, biking to work in the United States has grown 62% from 2000 to 2013. Although a mere .25% of the U.S. population bikes to work, the McBike program might be introduced to active, bike-friendly cities like Portland, Oregon where upwards of 6% of the population bikes to work, or in small cities, like Davis, California, where 24.5% of commuters bike.
In the United States, Millennials increasingly live in urban locations; are “multi-modal,” choosing the best transit mode (driving, public transit, bike or walk) to reach their location; and are a likely demographic for the McBike initiative.
Even if the new packages don’t make it to the states, they could still have a substantial impact elsewhere. Take Copenhagen, Denmark for example, where over 30% of the population bikes to work. If this package succeeds in countries with large cycling communities, then McDonald’s stands to gain quite a lot of business volume.
Figure 1. Method of Commuting Trips (City of Copenhagen, 2008-2010)
Source: Average 2008-2010 TU Data, Danish Annual National Transport Survey
It all comes down to knowing your demographics and experimenting with ways to capture a broader array of clientele. A bicyclist demographic could include active and health conscious adults, adults that don’t have a car, children, and people in communities where biking is the norm.
The McBike is certainly an interesting packaging concept and a great attempt to bring cyclists to McDonald’s. However, I’m not completely sold on the new McBike package. I have a hard time believing that the package actually makes for an easy ride. My primary concern is with how deep the carton is: It appears the bottom of the beverage container hangs well below the top of the front tire.
If you’ve ever ridden a bike while attempting to carry packages on your handlebars—and instead chosen a bike basket or panniers to carry groceries or other items—you know that anything that interferes with your front tire’s turning radius can create a handling problem. In the case of the McBike package, there is nothing within the package to keep it from swaying, which could potentially create problems with the beverage container striking the wheel, possibly making a mess or instigating a crash. It also looks like the package might sit a little too close to the center of bike depending on the cyclist’s handlebars. Overall, it is a unique branding and packaging idea, and if it works, the McBike program could potentially bring in a lot of drive-in business in places where bikes are the primary vehicles on the road. As someone who lives in a urban area, this seems like a realistic idea for my shorter rides, but it seems like a bit a hassle if you want to go a few miles or more with.
McDonald’s is proving that innovation is key to meeting your customers’ needs. More business is good business and an innovative packaging program can be an important part of broadening your company's reach and creating growth. But on first glance, a bit more package engineering may make sense.
By Noah Rabinowitz | Packaging Designer
Sources: Statisa.com; bikeleague.org, transportpolicy2014.blogspot.com, youtube.com