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Last week when Matthew Corrin wrote an open letter to newly minted McDonalds CEO Steve Easterbrook, he wasn’t looking for a media blitz.
Rather Corrin, who is the founder and CEO of Toronto–based Freshii, says he genuinely wanted—and still wants—the fast-food giant to consider his proposal. In the letter, Corrin challenged McDonald’s to incorporate a Freshii within one of its 14,000 stores for one year. Corrin wrote that he was so confident that the partnership would benefit McDonald’s that he would personally assume any revenue losses as guarantee.
“It was a dead-serious call to action. They’ve talked about being bold now for some time, and I’ve been sitting with the letter for a while,” Corrin says. Originally he wrote the letter in December with the intention of sending it to former CEO Don Thompson before the leadership switch. Following Easterbrook’s turnaround plan, Corrin sent the letter. He says that if attempts to change McDonald’s boils down to adding kale to a breakfast bowl, the efforts will be in vain.
“It actually has to be much more bold,” Corrin says. “If you put a Freshii—a separate brand that … represents something totally different from McDonald’s—and you put them under one roof like a twinning, I think it’s quite obvious what the results would be.”
The two biggest barriers to eating healthy are convenience and affordability, Corrin says. If a major fast-food chain were to partner with a smaller, better-for-you brand like Freshii, it would have an efficient way of overcoming those hurdles. As an added bonus, Freshii already has a reputation for delivering within nontraditional venues such as airports, gyms, and college campuses.
“We’re driving sales in a wide variety of settings, which continues to lead me to believe that a setting might be a store within a McDonald’s, for example,” Corrin says. “The fact that we’re driving sales in such a unique variety of settings is quite unprecedented in the industry … maybe with [the exception of] Starbucks.”
Limited-service brands that occupy smaller spaces and already emphasize healthy eating would be less ideal partners. Corrin says that putting a Freshii within Subway, for example, would probably result in cannibalized sales. A brand focused on more indulgent foods like burgers, fries, or pizza would allow for more differentiation from Freshii’s offerings like whole-grain bowls, salads, wraps, burritos, and soup.
“The mission of Freshii is pretty similar to [that of] rising stars of the healthy fast-food segment. We want citizens to live healthier lives,” Corrin says. “A burger chain doesn’t have that mission and a pizza chain doesn’t have that mission but a health food chain does.”
For the time being, Freshii will continue its solo growth, with about 110–115 new units slated to open this year. McDonald’s corporate side has not responded to the letter, but Corrin says that he’s received e-mails from McDonald’s franchisees, customers, and even a competitor, although he did not say which one.
“I think somebody will take us on, and I think that’s a fabulous thing,” Corrin says. “There’s really several winners if that happens, and so I’m excited to pilot this.”
By Nicole Duncan