We have said it many times: 2014 was not a good year for McDonald’s in Japan. Ever since being involved in an expired chicken scandal last summer, the Japanese public at large has held a grudge so deep against the restaurant you’d think Ronald himself left a flaming bag of dog poop on everyone’s doorstep and keyed their cars on his way off the premises.

Now as the new fiscal year in Japan begins we can see that this anger wasn’t limited to mere online whining either. Japanese people seem to have united and hit McDonald’s where it hurts most: the bottom line.

In an announcement on 16 April, McDonald’s Holdings Company Japan President Sarah Casanova announced that the company currently sits on the largest deficit ever at a super-sized 38 billion yen (US$319M).

Since the scandal broke, McDonald’s Japan has hemorrhaged about 10% of since the previous quarter and their operating loss has worsened by about 18 billion yen (US$151M). In March McDonald’s had seen a 29% drop in sales and a 23% decline in customers. As a result Casanova announced the following changes to take place this year.

■  15% (about 100 people) of the staff at McDonald’s Headquarters will be given early retirement packages
■  131 McDonald’s stores (out of about 3,000) that aren’t expected to grow will be closed
■  2,000 stores will be renovated over the next four years, 500 of them in this year
■  Three corporate headquarters will be made: East, West, and Central
■  A wider range of combos will be made available on the menu

In addition, 59 McDonald’s franchises will also end this year for a total 190 closures across the nation.

Casanova explained that the changes were intended to improve business, food safety, and customer faith in the McDonald’s brand. It seems in an effort to appeal to consumers McDonald’s is making cuts at the upper levels first and putting money into the customer experience with menu and dining area reforms.

On the other hand, it seems none of the announced changes address the food safety issue which is what triggered the recent outpouring of vitriol against the company to begin with. Perhaps they felt they have exhausted that avenue over the past months with offers of “safer” free nuggets and alternative side dishes.

Although it was a significant financial, blow it seems we are far from the end of the McDonald’s in Japan. Despite a highly competitive fast-food market, none of the competition has really stepped up with anything special over the past year to claim dominance over McDonald’s. In fact most of the recent innovation in B-class gourmet in Japan still seems to stem from the golden arches. That might be why the company is optimistic enough to aim for some growth in the third quarter of this fiscal year.

Even the online community in Japan, where most of the McAngst emits from can’t stay mad forever, can they? After all, if it wasn’t for McDonald’s and Japanese netizens working together in the past we wouldn’t have had this brilliant artifact of Japanese modern art.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News 1, 2(Japanese)
Top Image & Video: YouTube – forte9588