The only way to get the 17 percent-of-revenue labor figure is to divide payroll and benefits at company-operated restaurants by total revenues. But here’s the thing: More than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchises, and the company makes scads of money from them in no small part because it has no direct labor expense at those stores. The HuffPost explicitly includes executive compensation in its 17 percent figure, but executive comp and the pay of folks in Chicago who run marketing and the like are housed in “selling, general & administrative expenses,” not under payroll & employee benefits at company-operated stores.
You have to divide company-operated payroll & employee benefits by company-operated sales to get an apples-to-apples measure. That gets you 25 percent. So a Big Mac would, in fact, have to go up by a full dollar, not 68 cents, in order to double wages at McDonald’s. And the Dollar Menu would have to become the Dollar Twenty-Five menu.
It’s harder to get at non-restaurant (ie headquarters) wages because McDonald’s doesn’t break out labor costs in SG&A. Assuming pay is half of the total, it would put the number at 22 percent.
And then there are the franchisees. There are 1.9 million people who work at McDonald’s restaurants, but just 440,000 of those actually work for McDonald’s Corporation. The rest work for franchisees who pay a cut of their sales to Chicago for the rights to the Golden Arches, Ronald McDonald, and standardized coronaries-on-a-plate.
Worldwide, those franchisees took in $70 billion in revenue last year, and US stores took in $31 billion of that. McDonald’s Corporation doesn’t break out similar expense numbers for its franchisees, so the best I can do is research from Janney Capital Markets. It puts labor costs for US franchises at 24 percent of sales, which gibes with McDonald’s company-owned stores. Janney estimates franchisee operating income at just 5 percent.
If Janney is right (and I’m a bit skeptical. Five percent margins seem awfully low), McDonald’s franchisees in the US pay out, very roughly, $7.4 billion in labor costs a year and make about $1.6 billion in operating profit. Doubling pay without dipping into profit would mean menu prices would have to rise 24 percent—and that’s assuming such price increases wouldn’t hurt sales, which they would.
The bottom line is: This “study” and The Huffington Post are both wrong.
- See more at: A Big Mac miss by The Huffington Post : Columbia Journalism Review