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For a happier meal: McDonald’s new look

NYC eatery gets modern makeover, high-tech frills

The renovated McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan offers the same menu but a Danish modern decor and free WiFi. The renovated McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan offers the same menu but a Danish modern decor and free WiFi. (Bebeto Matthews/ Associated Press)
By Karen Matthews
Associated Press / November 19, 2009

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NEW YORK - Danish Modern furniture. Flat-screen TVs. Free WiFi.

You want fries with that?

A McDonald’s in midtown Manhattan became the first in the United States to undergo a sleek, European-style makeover, similar to what McDonald’s has done at thousands of outlets in France and the United Kingdom.

The eatery is outfitted with outlets for plugging in laptops, upholstered vinyl chairs instead of Fiberglas seats bolted to the floor, subdued lighting, and employees whose all-black uniforms suggest a hip boutique.

“It’s like a lounge,’’ said Kimberly Burgess, one of many patrons who did a double take after entering the newly renovated restaurant in Manhattan’s Chelsea section. “It’s so different from all the other McDonald’s. It’s beautiful.’’

Paul Hendel, the franchise owner, said customers have settled down in a restaurant not known for patrons lingering over lunch.

“We’re becoming a more relevant type of restaurant for the younger crowd,’’ he said. “They don’t feel rushed. They’re reading the newspaper, relaxed.’’

Danya Proud, a McDonald’s Corp. spokeswoman, said thousands of the chain’s 14,000 restaurants have been updated over the past few years, but the Chelsea location is the first “urban redesign’’ in the United States. She said “we’ll continue to evaluate’’ whether more might follow.

Proud said the redesign was intended “to give our customers more of a reason to make McDonald’s a destination.’’

“People are using our restaurants differently today than they did five, 10, 20 years ago,’’ she said. “People are multitasking, doing more on a given day. . . . You want to be able to open your laptop, log on, and get some work done while you’re eating.’’

Proud said the redesigned European restaurants - along with menu items geared toward the customer base in different countries - have been responsible for McDonald’s growth in Europe.

McDonald’s has experienced strong sales in the United States during the recession, though the chain said this week that its monthly US sales growth edged down in October. European sales were up 6.4 percent for the month.

The menu at the 186-seat Chelsea outlet is the same as at any other US McDonald’s.