The Gods of Retail: McGospel
By Mike Schuster Mar 24, 2009 7:15 am
Worship at the altar of the Golden Arches.
Though McDonald's (MCD) plucky and perpetually upbeat mascot Ronald has been known to participate in countless hobbies -- ice-skating, playing lead guitar, and tearing up a half-pipe, to name just a few -- few would expect to see him swaying in the back row of a gospel choir.
But at one location on Chicago's south side, that's exactly where you would find him.
Dubbed the "Gospel McDonald's," the fast-food eatery on 47th Street has Christian-themed decor, with songs of worship piped into the dining area, the parking lot, and even the bathrooms. Alongside Grimace and the Fry Guys, customers can find a collection of ceramic cherubs and portraits featuring famed gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson.
The restaurant is also the site of frequent live choir performances, as well as several church services. However, flavorless Communion wafers have yet to be replaced with delicious hash browns.
To underscore the uplifting atmosphere, cashiers end every transaction by saying "Have a blessed day" - which is sure to please those who protested Wal-Mart's saying "Happy Holidays."
Yolanda Travis, owner of this and several other McDonald's franchises, told Religion & Ethics News Weekly why she transformed the restaurant into a place of spiritual celebration.
"When I was a young girl, my parents used to take me to church on Sunday, and I realized how much it soothed the soul, and so if it soothed my soul back then, I thought that it would soothe the soul of my customers," Travis said.
Much to the relief of the company's team of lawyers, young Travis didn't find comfort in a Burger King.
The overhaul reportedly led to a remarkable transition for the troubled area. Situated across the street from a liquor store, Travis noted a significant drop in loiterers and crime - including hamburglary.
Along with a more cheerful clientele, the gospel theme brought in a double-digit increase in sales, according to the Chicago Tribune. The staff says the success is in part due to Travis' strict management style, but it might have also led to an ugly incident at one of her other locations.
In 2005, a high-school student was handcuffed and arrested after she refused to move from a seat meant for non-students. Although initially implemented to quell disorderly conduct in the dining area, the segregated seating area evoked terrible memories of a bygone era and was quickly abandoned.
However, Travis is pleased that no trouble has arisen due to the gospel theme; in fact, customers "are constantly commenting about the music, specifically in drive-thru," she says.
Travis didn't indicate whether those comments tended toward, "Please turn down that racket so you can hear my order!"
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