It's not as bad as painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa but, to many, it's close. McDonald's is celebrating its 30th anniversary in France with a restaurant in the underground entrance to the Louvre, perhaps the foremost bastion of high culture. But art enthusiasts, gastronomical elite and other Parisians are crying "sacre bleu."
As the news broke over the weekend, one unnamed artistic historian described this move to the Telegraph as the "last straw" -- whatever that means. Others groused at the juxtaposition of the Mona Lisa and Ronald McDonald, and the idea of mingling fine art with the smell of French fries.
But behind the obligatory Euro-whining about American brands taking over the world, there are some pretty persuasive numbers pointing to the fact that Europeans actually like eating in McDonald's. After a rocky beginning in Europe, the chain has grown its presence on the continent and the region is now one of its fastest growing. Second-quarter same-store sales grew 6.9%, and operating income soared 10%. France, where McDonald's now has 1,100 locations, lagged Britain, which posted a 13% same-store sales increase, but President-COO Ralph Alvarez singled out the nation, saying business remains strong. The chain has been re-imaging restaurants there ahead of the rest of Europe.
In France, "Families are choosing to visit McDonald's for an experience that offers quality food at an affordable price in great surroundings," Mr. Alvarez said. In July, the French government lowered an eat-in restaurant tax, which is expected to grow sales even further.
The chain has surged past competition in recent years, growing sales and increasing market share, all the while making nice with mothers and nutritionists, who once expressed concern about food quality and nutritional standards. For McDonald's, this is one of the first such controversies in some time, but the Louvre brings out the snob in people. Arguably the world's most famous art museum, founded in 1793, the Louvre draws about 8 million visitors each year. And it tends to meet with vociferous opposition at any attempts to update, such as the Louvre Pyramid, or "new entrance," designed by I. M. Pei, which opened in 1989.
McDonald's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.