Dear McDonald’s new CEO: Happy first day. Here’s some (unsolicited) advice

March 2, 2015, 7:48 PM UTC
Macdonald's Restaurant In London
Cartons of McDonald's french fries sit at a restaurant in London, U.K., on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant company, plans to increase its number of Russian outlets by 20 percent this year to capitalize on its fastest growing market in Europe. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Jason Alden — Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s McDonald’s (MCD) CEO Steve Easterbrook’s first day on the job, and he has his work cut out for him. Last month, the burger giant posted a steeper than expected sales decline, with global sales at restaurants open for more than a year falling 1.8% in January, the eighth straight month of falling sales.

So, how can Easterbrook turn this fast food tanker around? Fortune asked a few experts to offer some advice to Easterbrook. Here’s what they had to say:

Change the menu. “Ray Kroc was asked on The Phil Donahue Show, ‘What will you be selling in the year 2000?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, but we’ll sell more than anybody else.’ They are not a hamburger company, they are a food distribution company for what consumers are eating. And that’s why I don’t think they should hang onto their core menu.” —Mike Donahue, co-founder and chief brand officer of LYFE Kitchen, former McDonald’s chief communication officer

Inspire. “First, focus, focus, focus. It begins with focusing on the core customer that is behind the success in their history, and that’s moms and families… Second, the CEO has to inspire in a big way. He has to be a storyteller and he has to paint a picture of what greatness looks like in 2015, 2016, 2017… Third is to be visible… He has to be in stores, he has to be with his people, he has to be traveling, he has to be in different countries. Fourth, he has to decide a few symbolic things he’s going to do that people will buzz about that will set the tone for where McDonald’s is going… Fifth, whatever the speed of action and decision-making at McDonald’s, take it up five volts. They have to move super fast. Sixth, really look at how people are measured and [incentivized]. Because if that doesn’t change, the culture won’t change.” —Jim Stengel, former chief marketing officer of Procter & Gamble, author of Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies

Lose the clown. “Time for a new business model for the 21st century. For starters, retire that outdated and creepy clown. You can be a true leader by stop exploiting children. I guarantee the millennials market you’re after will reward you for it. I know the public health world will applaud you, starting with myself.” Michele Simon, public health lawyer, president of Eat Drink Politics, and author of Clowning Around with Charity: How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children

Listen to your customers.“More often than not, the solution resides in a fundamental understanding of your core consumer, their motives and expectations. We believe the most successful brands of tomorrow will embrace a full understanding and appreciation of what their customers do every day. This requires that brands become truly obsessed with their customers and deliver programs that ultimately create a deeper level of engagement and loyalty.” —Eric Healy, CEO of Rosetta, a digital advertising agency focused on customer engagement

Become the animal welfare leader you once were. “McDonald’s once led its industry on animal welfare – most notably, with its pledge to eliminate cruel gestation crates for pigs from its supply chain – but it has since fallen behind other major food retailers. For example, McDonald’s continues to use nearly exclusively eggs from caged hens in the U.S., while Burger King, Starbucks, and so many others have pledged to use only cage-free eggs. Even McDonald’s in Europe is already 100% cage-free. As well, Burger King, Subway, Denny’s, Chipotle, White Castle, TGI Fridays, Johnny Rockets, and Chili’s are also now serving enticing plant-based entrées – it’s well past time for McDonald’s to put a veggie burger on the menu.” —Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

Ask yourself the hard questions. “For decades, the tobacco industry denied claims and science that it harmed the health of its customers; downplaying criticisms by citing the consumers’ freedom to chose their lifestyle and how responsible usage was perfectly fine – while at the same time scientifically engineering the product and promotions to drive ever-higher consumption. This approach eventually backfired and the industry largely fell apart in the wake of stronger regulation and litigation they ultimately brought upon themselves. Similarly, McDonald’s mostly denies and downplays criticisms and only begrudgingly acquiesces to calls for improved nutrition and more healthful products. Are you using your position and resources as the world’s largest restaurant chain to improve our food system and food culture? Isn’t it in some ways an obvious obligation of the ‘world’s largest’ in any industry to set the example for positive change?” —Aaron Allen, founder and CEO of Aaron Allen & Associates, a global restaurant consultancy

Perk up, tomorrow is a new day! “This is a really hard business and we all go through periods that are not perfect and ideal. They’re gonna be back on their feet. That’s one of the beauties of what we do. You can wake up tomorrow and do it better, differently, freshly.” —Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

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