McDonald's Sales Down: Is Martha's Vineyard to Blame?

Intense competition, a poor economy and consumers' switch to healthier eating have all hurt the fast-food giant, but Martha's Vineyard got there first with strict zoning laws prohibiting chain businesses.

It's been more than 32 years since McDonald's tried to open a restaurant on Martha's Vineyard, an effort that rallied year-round residents and summer celebrities alike to mount a successful "No Mac" campaign.

Not everyone applauded. A New York Times report from January, 1979 sniffed,

"Martha's Vineyard beat back its first Big Mac attack this month, but how long this island of passionate resistance to the last half of the 20th century can hold out is anyone's guess."

Well, guess what: Mac never came back. And just to make sure, the six towns passed zoning laws so strict you won't find a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or CVS here either. 

Fast-forward to 2013:

The only chain retailers on the Vineyard remain the Edgartown Dairy Queen, which was already in business in the 1970s, and the two Stop & Shops, which were A&Ps at the time of the zoning law changes. 

As the Island's popularity and population has increased over the years, fast-food eateries like McDonald's are missing out on ever more business here, especially in the red-hot summer season. 

Could our Island-wide boycott be taking its toll on the industry?

The chain burger-flippers' competitiveness level is at an all-time high, with McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, the three largest networks, experimenting with menu changes to try to appeal to the masses. McDonald's is dropping at least two of its current menu items, with more possibly being taken off the menu as well, Reuters reported. 

Shares for McDonald's were down last week, and in October, global restaurant sales fell for the first time in nine years.

The economy has also hurt the industry, with fewer people spending money at restaurants because they have less money to spend overall.

And as more people look to eat healthier, they're eating less and less fast food. The obesity epidemic is an often-talked-about problem in America, and an increased number of people are becoming more concerned with what they eat.

Perhaps Martha's Vineyard was ahead of the curve in keeping McDonald's out. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

Patch staffer Robert Rosen contributed to this report.

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gary stuber March 14, 2013 at 02:19 PM
I do hope the Vineyard is partially responsible for the down-tic in BigMacs. We saw, ahead of the curve that this movement to mass produced crap is unhealthy on many levels and teaches our children something about quality of life.
Audra Myerberg March 14, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Thank GOD there are no fast food restaurants on island. That's part of what makes it so special. I cringe every time I pass the Dairy Queen and vow never to go there. I would love for the chain super markets to go and be replaced with better/healthier stores. I am against anything that makes MV just like all of the other beach communities.....MV is an island community.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 14, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Edgartown's DQ is locally owned and has been a beloved treat spot for Island families since at least the 1960s, when I was a little kid. Yesterday it opened for the season and the line was soon out the door and down the street — all Islanders. http://marthasvineyard.patch.com/articles/dq-opening-draws-a-crowd-in-edgartown
Margaret Steele March 14, 2013 at 02:37 PM
"Sack the Mac"...someone must have a collection of all the wonderful old bumper stickers...my fave..."Save the Substandart Bump"!
Margaret Steele March 14, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 14, 2013 at 02:50 PM
You'll have to tell me about that one, Mom! I remember "No Jets" though.
Scott March 14, 2013 at 03:32 PM
If memories serve me correct, wasn't there a Subway on Circuit Ave. in the mid 90s?
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 14, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Subway had a "short stay in OB" according to a comment on the facebook.com/MVineyardPatch just now.
Maribeth March 14, 2013 at 05:24 PM
There was a Subway on Circuit and a Dunkin Donuts over by Nancy's Snack Bar when I first moved here 19 years ago. I'm thrilled that there are no fast food chains on the Vineyard, it was the catalyst that eventually got me off fast food completely. Don't miss it a bit!
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 14, 2013 at 05:47 PM
While there's no freestanding café like we're used to seeing just about everywhere else in the world, Starbucks lovers can satisfy some of their cravings on the Vineyard: Edgartown Meat & Fish serves the branded coffee and tea drinks, according to its Facebook page. I think this may be the only place in town to get any kind of espresso drink this time of year and it's taken me a month to find it. I'll be investigating further.
Matthew March 14, 2013 at 08:59 PM
In other words: "We're better than everyone else."
joy March 14, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Thank God this happened.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 15, 2013 at 02:52 AM
Matthew, you said, "In other words: 'We're better than everyone else.'" Could you help us understand what you mean by "better" in that comment?
George hartman March 15, 2013 at 02:15 PM
If McDonald's learned how to make a burger like Woodland's mushroom and swiss, they might have a very slight chance.
Jeannie Clement March 15, 2013 at 03:35 PM
I'd like to know exactly what the zoning law says that has managed to keep the chain establishments off-Island. How do you define "chain"? Speaking of good espresso, I surely miss the VH Beetlebung Cafe. Ah well.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) March 15, 2013 at 03:42 PM
There's not one single law - we have six towns.


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