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Tuesday September 02, 2014
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Cappuccino attack

 

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not only Wi-Fi in the store but also an electrical outlet at each table-a not-so-subtle invitation to linger awhile with your laptop over one of the chain's new, much-heralded lattes or cappuccinos.

"Michigan was the first place in the country to roll out the espresso drinks," says franchise co-owner Toni Rodgers. "They cost about half what a similar drink at Starbucks costs." (A McDonald's billboard ad campaign in Seattle rubs it in with a knife-twisting one-liner: "Four bucks is dumb." Here the tone is less antagonistic: "Coffee breaks shouldn't break you. $2.29," reads the McDonald's billboard at Dexter and Maple.)

Toni and B. J. Rodgers are a handsome and energetic Obamaesque-looking couple who used to work for GM. He is a retired CFO of the GM Foundation; she worked in marketing. Toni bought a McDonald's franchise in 2004. "After the Enron scandal," says Toni, "it occurred to us that maybe it wasn't a great idea to be working for the same company." This is their fourth franchise-and, she guesses, one of about twenty McDonald's in the county. The espresso drinks are indeed, Toni says, a deliberate and aggressive challenge to the hegemony of Starbucks. "We're not only going head to head, we're winning," she says, pointing out that Starbucks has continued its course of massive layoffs and store closings.

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