McDonald’s in the United Kingdom released a commercial ribbing specialty coffee shops last week, and a lot of baristas took to social media to voice their anger. The video ridiculed craft coffee shops for having limited hours, being over priced, taking too long, having rewards cards, and frankly just being too precious when it comes to coffee. As voiced by one actor in the commercial, McDonald’s is the place for people who “just want a cup of coffee.”
Although I found the joke about tipping to be tone deaf coming from a multinational company infamous for paying low wages, I’m not mad about McDonald’s coffee commercial. In fact, I kind of welcome it. I remember when seeking out a good coffee shop meant scouring online forums and blogs, not to mention printing off directions from Google maps (this was before the iPhone, at least before I had one anyway). For specialty coffee to be mainstream enough to be lampooned by one of the largest fast food chains in the world is kind of amazing.
But more importantly, I hope coffee professionals gain a bit of perspective from this commercial. Specialty grade coffee represents roughly 10% of the coffee grown in the world, meaning the other 90% of coffee being consumed is commodity grade. There’s simply not enough specialty coffee being grown for everyone to consume, and loads of people enjoy the commodity grade stuff just fine. To someone perfectly content with their fast food coffee, most craft cafés come across as elitist.
As an industry, we often talk about making specialty coffee approachable. Maybe we need to learn to laugh at ourselves first.