McDonald's McMakeover


Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 11:47 p.m.

Lake City

Welcome to the new McDonald's. Would you like a session on the stationary bike to go with your fries? How about some time in front of the big-screen TV while your kids shoot hoops? Or perhaps you would like a table where you can catch up on e-mail using the wireless Internet?

Welcome to the state-of-art McDonald's that will open Monday morning on U.S. 90 in Lake City. It is the second McDonald's in Florida to undergo such a radical makeover; the first was in Tampa. "This is what the future of McDonald's will look like," said Carlos Solorzano, operations manager for McDonald's in North Florida and South Georgia. "It's all about exercising and being healthy," he said. "We want to get away from fast food and make this more restaurant-style."

The company has been actively revamping its image in recent years following negative publicity internationally, including a 2003 lawsuit targeting the fat in McDonald's food.

McDonald's Corp. bought the Lake City store in July 2005 from a franchisee and has spent 115 days and about $1.5 million razing the 30-year-old building and rebuilding from the ground up.

"We have added some features we think our customers are really going to like," said Kimberly Kirkland, the area marketing coordinator.

The indoor playground now includes a floor-level section of bright, hands-on activities for babies and toddlers, basketball hoops at three heights and stationary bicycles, all in addition to the sliding and climbing sections children have romped through for decades.

Molded plastic booths have been replaced by what Solorzano refers to as bistro style-seating — slightly higher chairs that can be pulled up to round tables. The playground area will have a 42-inch plasma television, while the dining area will be outfitted with a pair of 32-inch screens.

Behind the counter, customers will still see much of the same stainless-steel equipment like the fryers, but there are a few new additions, like the cream and sugar station that lets employees "customize coffee" by adding them before the coffee is delivered to a customer.

Outside, the building features a single golden arch on the roof line, and behind the building patrons will find tandem drive-up ordering stations, although orders will continue to be delivered through a single pick-up window.

"Having two ordering lanes should speed things up," Kirkland said.

After the new, 24-hour-a-day McDonald's opens for the first time at 11 a.m. Monday, Solorzano said customers will be able to see that it "sets an example for the community and for the competitors."

Karen Voyles can be reached at 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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