“Would you like fries with that latte?”
Get used to hearing that question — possibly at your neighborhood McDonald's.
The largest fast-food chain in the U.S. is planning to whip up cappuccinos, mochas and espressos later this year as the battle over coffee gets another major player to go along with reigning titans Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Sure, there are other aspirants, like Peet's and Seattle's Best, but none of the other potential combatants will be able to ramp up as quickly as McDonald's is prepared to do.
The firm last month announced it will expand what had been a test run of its McCafe concept from 800 restaurants to 14,000 U.S. locations. It hopes the sugary coffee concoctions will sweeten its bottom line by $1 billion, boosting its annual sales up from the $21.6 billion it posted last year.
Baristas will work automated espresso machines at the cafés that will feature upgraded interiors with soft lighting and oversized chairs replacing McDonald's more typical brightly colored molded plastic booths. The chain will also offer free wireless Internet access.
The announcement from McDonald's came nearly simultaneous to Starbucks announcing it was running into troubles at its U.S. operations and, as a result was bringing back company chairman and founder Howard Schultz to retake the firm's CEO post — a position he held from 1987 to 2000.