In a world first, McDonald’s trialled a new cafe concept in Sydney’s Camperdown, opposite the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Macca’s healthy cafe, dubbed The Corner by McCafe carried no traditional McDonald’s branding and featured grain and legume salads, exotic flavours and even tofu.
The Corner by McCafe opened in December 2014 and was described by the fast-food company as a “learning lab” for trying out a new menu and service style. The outlet was never a full-service McDonalds but had carried the McCafe branding. Its location opposite one of Sydney’s largest hospitals sat well with the new healthy approach. Business Insider saw the experiment as a response to falling global sales, particularly among young adults. It seems there is growing disenchantment among “millennials” with McDonald’s traditional fare.
The vibe was different. No golden arches, no red aprons. It was all very toned down, with staff in chambray shirts and lots of timber in the decor. Menu options included soups, salads and rice boxes. A “protein and salad box” contained chipotle bbq pulled pork, slaw, Lebanese lentils and brown rice. Other options included Moroccan chicken, Lebanese lentil and chickpea salad, and couscous with roasted eggplant and capsicum. There were also wraps (we’ve seen that Chicken Caesar wrap before though), fruit salad and tofu. It seems that some of the more ambitious offerings were later deleted, with pre-packaged salads replacing the mix and match salad bar and the menu tending to fairly average wraps and toasties.
The “learning lab” in Sydney was only one of the tactics the fast-food giant has adopted. The Wall Street Journal reported that McDonald’s in the USA was looking for a new way to engage with this generation by allying itself with a charitable cause. “McDonald’s is trying to tap into the fact that researchers believe that millennials are very interested in philanthropy and are more likely to be drawn to brands that have a history of giving back,” the Journal wrote.
The Corner was an experiment that failed. The format remained a one-off for McDonald’s and the café received a lot of unfavourable reviews. It was closed permanently in October 2020.