Customer Suggestions at McDonald's

Discussion Point

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Several years ago while vacationing in California my family took a visit to a McDonald’s and found an innovative treat. Their famous apple pie was cut in half, placed in a dish and had a swirl of their delicious frozen yogurt in the center. Billed as apple pie al a mode was immediately a favorite of our children. Today we know two things about this product: first, the test market was probably unsuccessful as we have never seen it in one of our local Michigan McDonald’s and second, it was not an idea suggested by a customer.

McDonald’s maintains a policy that they will not entertain unsolicited ideas from anybody other than corporate employees, franchise owners or direct suppliers. The reason stems to responsibility. If McDonald’s were to consider an idea came from an unsolicited source they would open themselves to countless potential lawsuits every time they rolled out a new product.


The business that takes ideas from customers or employees outside of a documented suggestion system can be accused of stealing the idea. The person that made the suggestion will normally win some sort of compensation, if only to escape a long legal battle, if they can show any verifiable evidence they thought of it and that McDonald’s had become aware of the idea. Companies the size of McDonald’s could receive so many suggestions it would be impossible to keep track of them were to determine if the idea is something the company is already working on.

Any company needs to consider how they are going to solicit ideas from outside their own marketing and/or product development team. Formal guidelines must be strictly adhered to in order to protect the company from intellectual theft lawsuits.