Golden Arch Hotel case study

Golden Arch Hotel case study


4.1 plan marketing mixes for two different segments in consumer markets

4.2 illustrate differences in marketing products and services to businesses rather than consumers

4.3 show how and why international marketing differs from domestic marketing

Pass criteria have been met plus:
? A range of sources have been used and complex data has been synthesized in order to create a realistic market plan

? The analysis structured is appropriate and has specific answers to the pass criteria concepts.

Pass and Merit criteria have been met plus:
? Properly justifying own conclusions in the report and noting your reasons for changing or not changing positions in regard to class discussion.
Summary of Tasks

You will write an examination of the case study with Learning Outcomes 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3 as your guide.

Primarily use details from the case study – McDonald’s Adventure in the Hotel Industry. You can also find supporting material from other sources about McDonald’s activities, the Swiss hotel market.
To answer 4.1 – Consider consumer market segments noted near the end of page 8 in the case study: Frequent Individual Travellers. This segment can be broken up into two sub-segments:
• The first being Families and
• The second being Business Travellers without affiliation or loyalty schemes.
Briefly specify the marketing mixes needed for each segment and describe how they differ from each other.

To answer 4.2 – Stick to the exact pass criteria specification – “illustrate differences in marketing products and services to businesses rather than consumers.” Compare the methods to be used in marketing the B2B segment and sub-segments discussed on page 8 of the case study with the methods used to market the B2C segments discussed above.

To answer 4.3 – Use details from the article and from other sources to justify your ideas. If this Swiss experiment is successful, where should Golden Arch Hotels expand to? Why there? What would be some of the barriers and opportunities in the new market? How will the firm have to adjust its marketing mix and marketing strategy in this new market?


Required Work and Format

• Your report must include specific answers to the ‘pass criteria’, however there are no limitations to your further insights you feel are relevant to the given concepts.

• Use bold headings to clearly show in your analysis which pass criteria you are answering.

• Reference at least 5 sources other than the case study article. All sources of information must be referenced

correctly using the Harvard Referencing Style.
Copyright © 2005 Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management. All rights reserved. This case was
prepared by Professor Stefan Michel for the purpose of classroom discussion only, and not to indicate either effective or
ineffective management. The case was prepared from published sources, and neither McDonald’s nor Golden Arch is in
any way responsible for the completeness, accuracy, or fairness of the presentation of any information contained herein.
The author thanks Nancy Stephens, Professor at Arizona State University, for sharing her pictures and her experience,
and Daniel Deutscher, hotel expert, for providing benchmark financial data. The following graduate students at
Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, translated part of the case from German to English:
Trevor Bundy, Patrick Häberli, Gian McCoy, Oliver Sanders, and Bjorn Van den Berghe.
Stefan Michel
McDonald’s Adventure
in the Hotel Industry
In spring 2001, McDonald’s Corporation opened its first hotel in the Swiss town of Rümlang. The 211-
room, four-star Golden Arch Hotel, situated close to Airport Zürich-Kloten, was followed in the same
month with the opening of a second hotel in the town of Lully. Heading this project was Urs Hammer,
longtime chairman of McDonald’s Switzerland. Hammer hoped the hotels would continue “the spirit
of McDonald’s hospitality philosophy.” Jack Greenberg, CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation, viewed
Hammer’s concept as a way forward for the company—since McDonald’s competed in many saturated
markets with its restaurant business, diversification was a promising way for future growth.1
The McDonald’s story began in 1954, when a self-employed salesman named Raymond Kroc sold a
popular milkshake mixer in Southern California. Oddly, many of his clients referred to his product as
the mixer that the McDonald brothers used in San Bernardino. As the number of these references
increased, Kroc asked himself why the McDonald brothers were so well known and what was their
secret? He decided to find out by driving down to San Bernardino. The “secret” was a restaurant on the
outer limits of the city.
Through observation, Kroc noticed that many of the customers had come from far away (far
being, of course, more than 25 miles!—remember, this was 1954), and the reason they came was uncommon
for the time: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, a soda, and a milkshake made with the
same mixer that Kroc himself sold. Kroc questioned some of the customers in the restaurant and discovered
that the reason they came was that they could get the freshest burger and fries all at one price (think
Value Meals and Happy Meals). Also, what impressed Kroc during his visit to the restaurant was that
the food was served in a clean environment and it provided “fast and friendly” service—the service was
so quick that none of the customers had to wait in line.
1, dated Spring 2001, accessed Nov 13,
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Impressed with the consistent quality and taste, day or night, that the McDonald system provided,
Kroc offered the McDonald brothers the chance to open more restaurants. His original intent
was to make more sales with his mixers, but the McDonalds refused his offer under the auspices that
they didn’t want to leave San Bernardino. Kroc was still so convinced that this system of food service
would work that he offered to buy the rights to the McDonald brothers’ concept and open his own
restaurants under their name.
Kroc then left San Bernardino with the first McDonald’s franchise contract in hand. One year
later, he opened his first McDonald’s Family Restaurant in Des Plaines, California. The success of the
restaurants is one for the history books, as in the following years McDonald’s popped up everywhere in
the country and became an American icon.
The first McDonald’s openings outside of the U.S. began in 1967 with Canada, Japan, Holland,
Australia, and Great Britain. In the 1970s, there was continued success with restaurants opening in
Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, the Far East, and Latin America. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in
1989, McDonald’s expanded into Eastern Europe in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
As of 2005, McDonald’s Corporation operates more than 30,000 quick-service restaurant businesses
under the McDonald’s brand in 122 countries around the world.2,3 Every five hours a new franchisee
joins the McDonald’s chain.4
In 1976, McDonald’s began to build its base in Switzerland. Today there are 142 McDonald’s
restaurants there. The Swiss affiliate has grown so much in the last 29 years that it now has 7,200 fulltime
employees. There are approximately 1.62 McDonald’s for every 100,000 citizens in Switzerland,
versus 4.72 restaurants per 100,000 in the USA. Financial analysts have determined the market to be
saturated in America, and it is a major concern in Switzerland as well. The Swiss head office of McDonald’s
is based in Crissier (VD). The CEO, Urs Hammer, is well recognized by the public at large, because he
comes from a well-known Swiss hotelier family.
In every country, one of the main concerns is the relationship that McDonald’s builds with its
neighbors, local communities, and clubs. Children play an important role in the McDonald’s corporate
plan: One quarter of all restaurants have a built-in “Playland” where children can play freely and parents
can host birthday parties for their children. The restaurants incorporate a family atmosphere where the
McDonald’s clown, Ronald McDonald, plays an important educational, as well as an entertaining, role.
Altered Market Circumstances
In 1965, McDonald’s held its IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the New York Stock Exchange. Today,
their stock is an essential part of the Dow Jones index and is also exchanged in Tokyo, Toronto, Paris,
Frankfurt, and London. Since 1990, one can buy and sell McDonald’s stock in Zürich, Basel, and
Geneva. Within a few months—between November 1999 and February 2000—the stock declined
from $48 to $32 per share. Why was there such a decrease in price share? The financial analysts surmised
that McDonald’s in the U.S. had reached market saturation. Martin Huber, CFO of McDonald’s
Switzerland and General Manager of the Swiss corporate office, concluded that every opening of a new
McDonald’s restaurant intruded upon the revenues of other restaurants already in operation.
As a result, McDonald’s decided to pursue a “diversification” strategy: In pre-selected countries,
General Management would develop core competencies, the purpose of which was 1) to build more
profit and revenue-winning restaurants, and 2) to develop these core competencies for use as a model
throughout the corporation. This “competency center” in each country would share its acquired knowl-
4 See for historic details and
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edge with other restaurants so that new products or services could be implemented to generate new
The Swiss Strategy
McDonald’s Switzerland, along with its CEO Urs Hammer, chose to pursue the “hotel” venture, and in
1999 received the green light from the executive board in Chicago. In the spring of 2001, two hotels
with associated restaurants were scheduled to open. Alongside the centerpiece of this study (the hotel in
Zürich-Rümlang), a second hotel was being constructed in Lully, near the A-1 interstate stretch Yverdon-
The crucial factor in deciding to pursue the hotel strategy and create a synergy with the already
existing restaurant and catering business was the fact that CEO Urs Hammer came from a hotelier
background. The Swiss General Manager had presented the McDonald’s hotel concept to the corporate
headquarters in Chicago three years before and got the nod to establish the world’s first McDonald’s
Hotel. Should the Swiss managers succeed, there was the chance that they could manage operations of
this strategic business unit for the entire corporation, from Switzerland.
Rümlang, a small town on the fringe of Zürich, was chosen as the first location. Zürich was on the
upswing, and its hotel managers were thrilled to ride the wave of success. Their occupancy rates were
high, and there was much diversity. Young people considered Zürich trendy, while older people enjoyed
its culture and businesses. Almost overnight, Zürich, long classified as moderately interesting, for a long
time became the destination for trendy insiders. Suddenly, guests were coming and the prices were
Even more promising was the airport area. The national airline SWISSAIR, focusing on a growth
strategy by acquiring many smaller European airlines, used the Airport Zürich-Kloten as a hub. The
hub, in turn, generated more demand for hotel beds by tourists, business travelers, and airline crews. A
major expansion of the airport was likely to increase its capacity by 50% in the first decade of the new
The Hotel Project
With a 32 million CHF (Swiss Franc)—about $26 million USD—investment, the Swiss subsidiary of
McDonald’s formulated a strategy to open a middle-class hotel in Rümlang. When the hotel opened it
doors in March 2001, the five-story building featured 211 rooms, along with a 170-seat drive-through
McDonald’s restaurant open 24 hours a day (very unusual in Switzerland). The restaurant was separated
from the hotel so that only hotel guests had access to the hotel building. The plans also included a 110-
car underground garage, as well as a 40-car above-ground parking lot.
Hotel Division executive Stefan Döni explained that with regards to competition, not only was
the hotel competing with other four-star hotels like the Mövenpick and Hilton, but also with the
world’s fastest-growing hotel group, the Accor-Group. Döni was so convinced that the hotel would be
a success that he and his team adopted the McDonald’s service standards for their hotel, with high
priority given to room cleanliness.
Two types of rooms were offered: room type I offered an oversized king-sized bed (200cm x
200cm), and room type II offered two oversized single beds (200cm x 140cm) (see Exhibit 1). The price
range was set from 150 CHF to 200 CHF ($120 USD to $160 USD) per night. To ensure efficient
luggage handling, McDonald’s developed a custom-made trolley for both hotels. In accordance with the
McDonald’s restaurant philosophy, the hotel crew would consist of a similar, permanent, employee
pool that could implement the consistent service standards for every task in order to better serve the
5 Ein Hotel in Zürich müsste man haben, NZZ (2000) 5 August, S. 41.
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guests. The motivational job rotation principle would therefore replace the traditional hotel industryapplied
job specialization and hierarchy system.
Because of the different peak-period demands for restaurants and hotels, the synergy effect would
also be used to assign employees different positions and tasks. In order to bypass the rush of the checkin
and check-out process, guests would have the opportunity for self-check-in. Through the simple use
of a credit card, the guest would have the opportunity to check in and out of the hotel at the airport
terminal. In total, there would be nine meeting rooms with the possibility of being transformed, due to
a foldable-wall technology, into a larger 30-person conference room.
To provide optimal comfort for guests, management decided against saving on beds and mattresses.
Due to this, future McDonald’s hotel guests would lie in comfort on the same beds and mattresses
as guests of the world-famous, five-star Quellenhof Hotel in Bad Ragaz. What made the room
layout unique was the “curved wall,” which bestowed the room with a special atmosphere and design.
The “curved wall” was a one-piece, ready-to-use design that would be patent-protected by McDonald’s
One feature of the hotel room design was a futuristic shower that projected into the bedroom.
While it made the room look bigger, from the inside the glass tube was claustrophobic. Originally, the
tube was completely transparent, but after guests complained about the lack of privacy (e.g., two businessmen
sharing a two-bedroom or a family traveling with teenagers), the glass was frosted6 (see Exhibit
The Market
The nearest hotel was a family-owned Airotel Rümlang (5 km from the airport, three stars), with 34
rooms and no airport shuttle. The room rates were 120 CHF ($96 USD to 170 CHF ($137 USD). A
more significant competitor was the Allegra Hotel in Kloten, since it competed in the same price range,
but Allegra was closer to the airport (2.2 km), had more rooms, fewer (but larger) meeting rooms, and
a fine-dining restaurant. It was owned by the Wohlgemuth family who owned and operated several
hotels in the Zürich airport market. Another hotel they operated was the 44-room, four-star Airport
Hotel Glattbrugg.
Very close to Golden Arch’s property was the Mövenpick hotel (1.5 km from the airport) with
three restaurants and large meeting rooms. Mövenpick offered a frequent-guest rewards program and
operated more than 50 hotels around the world. A direct competitor was Novotel, which was located
directly at the Autobahn between Zürich-Airport (3km) and Zürich downtown, close to several major
business centers (e.g., Headquarters of Zürich Insurance, General Motors Europe, World Trade Center,
and the Textile & Mode Center). Several other new projects had been recently announced. One hotel
was to be built directly at the airport, with many conference facilities already built nearby.
In the Zürich region (city of Zürich and the airport area), there were 17 new hotels, as well as two
extensive enhancements planned, currently under construction, or already finished (see Exhibits 3 and
4). Within three years, the 7,500 hotel rooms were to be supplemented by around 3,000 more rooms,
or a 40% increase.
By far, the largest increase in hotel rooms has emerged on the Zürich-Airport axis. The hotel chain
Accor alone contributed 738 rooms to this additional volume. Of these, 457 rooms were put into
operation at the beginning of May next to the Technopark near downtown Zürich. The building would
contain an IBIS-Hotel (two stars), an Etap-Hotel (three stars), and a Novotel-Hotel (four stars). An
additional 281 rooms were being built at the World Trade Center in Seebach (Ibis, Formule 1). Besides
6 Bernstein, Fred, “Want Fries with that McDonald’s Room?” Washington Post (2002) September 1, S. E 05.
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the four new projects, the first Women’s Hotel was being built in Zürich downtown and the exhibition
hotel, Turicum, was being planned.
But even with the 3,000 additional hotel rooms, growth continued. The hotel chain Hyatt had
been planning for a long time to build a convention hotel in Escherwiese, even though the project had
been blocked for several years. Hotels were also planned in the consumer electronics complex in Oerlikon
called Magic Park, and in the Diax-Towers in north Zürich or in Eurogate.7
“The current events are blowing us away,” said Guglielmo Brentel, President of the Hotel Association.
At the beginning of the year, he expected the development of 2,000 additional hotel rooms in the
city of Zürich and the airport region within the next two to three years. This amount was greater than
one-quarter of the then-current supply of 7,500 hotel rooms (as of January 12, 2000). Even six months
later, Brentel admitted that there were actually many more: 3,000 rooms, or 40%.8
Business was still excellent for the hotel operators. In the city of Zürich, hotel occupancy rates in
1999 were 73%, and in the previous year 71%.9 The region around the airport was up to 80% capacity—
like in the boom of the 1980s. According to Brentel, it would be another one or two years before
the hotel managers felt the effects of the extra capacity, because contracts with the tour operators were
booked in advance: “If all of the projects realize, the market will not be able to absorb them. The market
might be able to assimilate 1,000 additional rooms; 2,000 under certain circumstances—if the economy
continues to flourish, the airport is expanded, and a convention infrastructure is created, and if the
Olympic Games take place in Switzerland.” Anything over an additional 2,000 rooms, according to
Brentel, would be too many.10
It seems that managers do not learn from history. In the early 1970s, Hotel Atlantis (now Arabella
Sheraton), Hotel Zürich (now Marriott), Hotel International (now Swissotel), and Hotel Nova Park
(now Inter-Continental) were built. A little later, the first hotels in the airport region added to the
offering with the Holiday Inn (now Mövenpick Hotel Airport) and the first part of the Hilton. Between
1970 and 1975, capacity increased by 2,500 hotel beds in the four-star category. Although it was said
that the new hotels would bring new guests and businesses, the hotel bed occupancy rate dropped from
above 70% to a tight 50%.11
It also seems that the hotel managers overlooked another challenge in the Swiss hospitality industry.
Indeed, three-, four-, and five-star hotels can be built quickly. The construction industry has the
ability and capacity to build them. However, running these operations is more difficult. It takes personnel.
The Swiss human resources market was dried out. It was almost impossible to find cooks and chefs.
Staff for the reception desk was also rare. Domestic workers were preferred in hiring, but with so many
jobs needing to be filled, who would perform the simple work? This was problematic because quite a
few conservative hoteliers who asked for foreign labor also complained about the high ratio of foreigners.
If many low-budget hotels had no staff, Zürich would not create a destination market, no matter
how trendy it was. For this reason, it was suggested that those who intended to build a hotel in Zürich
should be required to secure the operational staff first.12 Reputable experts also acknowledged that this
would not be possible without labor piracy, i.e., luring away staff from existing hotels.
7 Hosp, Janine, Bald blässt ein scharfer Wind, Tages-Anzeiger (2000) 17 Juni, S. 13.
8 Ibid.
9 Reported 59.2% occupied beds, and 74.5% occupied rooms, according to
10 Hosp, Bald blässt ein scharfer Wind.
11 Ein Hotel in Zürich müsste man haben, NZZ (2000) 5. August, S. 41.
12 Ibid.
6 A02-05-0017
Market Analysis
Most analysts were not very convinced that this expansion fit well with McDonald’s overall strategy.
“I’ve just came back from lunch at McDonald’s. But I can’t imagine staying at a McDonald’s hotel on a
business trip,” said Rene Weber at Bank Vontobel.13 Erwin Brunner, an asset manager at Brunner Invest
AG, was more open-minded: “I usually stay in five-stars. But if there isn’t one around, why not stay at
McDonald’s?”14 Peter Oakes, an industry expert at Merrill Lynch, was less optimistic, and “would be
surprised if the Golden Arch Hotel expands to other countries.” Robert LaFleur, an analyst with Bear
Stearns in New York, noted that while McDonald’s had a favorable brand image associated with convenience,
hospitality, and cleanliness, he didn’t expect the company to begin rapid expansion of hotels in
the next few years. LaFleur described the Swiss venture as a blip on the radar screen for major U.S. hotel
I don’t see this as a competitive threat to the lodging industry. There are 38,000 hotels with about
four million rooms in the United States, and this is a test in Switzerland. It will be interesting to see if
this succeeds. But even if it is wildly successful, I still don’t see it as any short-term or medium-term risk
to hotel players in the United States. Switzerland is a small market, and the penetration of branded
hotels is much lower in Europe than it is in the United States.15
Mr. Hammer, McDonald’s Switzerland CEO, was a frequent traveler and knew exactly what
customers wanted in a hotel. “On arrival, there will be an automatic check-in,” said Beat Kuhn, manager
at the Golden Arch in Rümlang. “An electronic key will give guests access to the facilities. The
room will be equipped with a large bed that has three built-in motors for a variety of positions. It will
also have Internet and computer facilities, with the TV screen serving as a computer screen, and a cablefree
keyboard.” As Urs Hammer argued: “Our restaurants serve 74 million customers in a country with
a population of 7 million. If only one in 1,000 of those guests chooses the Golden Arch Hotel, the
project will be a success.”16 McDonald’s planned to watch the progress of the hotel, but there was no
plan for a widespread launch of McDonald’s-branded hotels, according to U.S.-based company spokesperson
Walt Riker. “Each of the 100 countries where we operate is free to unleash innovation and new
ideas to develop the brand. This is an individual, innovative approach by one company in our system.”17
Customer Experience
Nancy Stephens, a professor from Arizona, stayed in the Golden Arch Hotel in 2001. She was surprised
that she had never heard about McDonald’s move into the hotel industry before she actually gave a guest
lecture in Switzerland. She recalls her stay at the Golden Arch:
The beds go up and down electrically, like a hospital bed. The green part of the hotel room floor was
hard as rock and extremely uncomfortable, even a bit painful, to walk on. The bar, downstairs behind
the lobby, is cold and unwelcoming. It feels like a lounge in a small city airport. Plastic all the way.
The only bar snacks were chicken McNuggets and party mix (pretzels, nuts, etc.). The bar has large
windows looking out on a scene of green grass and trees. I found it more suggestive of having a picnic
than having a drink in a bar. Not the right ambiance at all. The rooms are somewhat noisy, being
located right by the airport. The Internet keyboard is wireless, very advanced for summer 2001, when
I stayed there. I believe the hotel had just opened; there weren’t many people around and it had the
feel of a large, empty hotel. The only food available is McDonald’s, at the restaurant attached to the
hotel. Furthermore, the hotel is relatively isolated. There isn’t much of anything in walking distance,
13 Studer, Margaret, und Jennifer Ordonez, “The Golden Arches: Burgers, Fries and 4-Star Rooms:
McDonald’s Plans to Open Two Hotels in Switzerland, Will Business Travelers Bite?” Wall Street Journal
(2000) 17 November, S. B1.
14 Ibid.
15 Zuber, Amy, “McD Eyes Hotels on the Swiss Horizon,” Nation’s Restaurant News 34 (2000) 49, S. 1-2.
16 Studer und Ordonez, “The Golden Arches: Burgers, Fries and 4-Star Rooms.”
17″Swiss McDonald’s to Open Two Hotels,” 2000,
leisure.McDonald’s.reut/, November 17.
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making one a captive market for McDonald’s food or forcing one to spend money on a cab to a
restaurant, which would be expensive in a fairly non-urban location. As I think about this hotel visit
in retrospect, the entire feeling was one of oddity and discomfort. It just felt off and I’m not sure I can
say exactly why. Maybe it’s the sum of all my particular memories. I don’t think of it as anywhere I
would want to return.
Fred Bernstein liked the experience when he stayed at the Golden Arch in Lully. After visiting the
Swiss National Exhibition, he was looking for a room and learned that the rate was 180 CHF ($120
USD). When he asked whether there was a better rate available, the receptionist offered the post-9 p.m.
walk-in rate of 83 CHF ($55 USD) since he did not have a guaranteed booking for a higher rate:
For $55 USD, we weren’t expecting much. But the room, though garishly painted, was exceedingly
cheerful. Large windows, excellent air conditioning, and comfortable furniture made the room seem
like a bargain. Better yet, at the touch of a button, the beds (twins pushed together) adjusted to every
conceivable position. Plus, there was an Internet access, via the TV, with a wireless keyboard—so I
could lounge in bed and answer e-mail. There were subtle reminders that we were in a McDonald’s
hotel, including headboards shaped like the Golden Arches, but I found them witty rather than cloying.
Upendra Dixit, an Indian businessman who lived and worked in Germany for five years, recalls
his only experience at the Golden Arch Hotel in Lully:
One long weekend, we were traveling towards Lausanne from the Interlaken area escorting my father-
in-law. We had left Stuttgart in the morning, spent time at the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen, then
the best part of the day in the Interlaken and Jungfrau region. Late evening we were heading for
Lausanne where we wanted to spend the night. The next day, we had a plan to spend the morning
there and head out to the Zermatt region. At the Bern junction of the two highways coming from Basel
and Interlaken, our car had an accident with some construction barricade material and was damaged.
We were shaken up after experience and wanted to stop for the night. We came across our
familiar McDonald’s restaurant on the highway at Lully and stopped for dinner. Till then, despite our
several visits, we had not noticed the hotel, which was quietly situated to the side. The signage was
not that prominent. This time we did notice it and felt that it was a good place to stop. First, the
Golden Arch Hotel was immediately associated in the mind with the McDonald’s brand. We expected
that the hotel would be one to two stars, matching the McDonald’s brand image. We noticed that the
hotel was unusually quiet, with not much activity and few cars parked outside. One concern for the
family was safety. Was it safe to stay on the highway with so few people around? When we entered the
lobby, it was very quiet with no activity and no one at reception. This was different from McDonald’s
restaurants where there was immediate service. So for the family, this was a very unwelcoming experience,
especially since we were all a bit upset after the accident. While we had no intentions to do
much that evening, and it was already late, we noticed that there was not much that could really be
done there, so it was ideally a bed-and-breakfast kind of place for an evening’s stay. All this had an
association with a certain price expectation. When we finally rang the bell and got someone to come
to the reception desk, we were told the tariffs would be around 150 CHF ($120 USD), which was a
very high and upper-class hotel range. We were also told that we needed three rooms for five people.
We felt that this was too high compared to our expectations. Given the low occupancy, there was little
effort to sell the rooms to us and the front-desk person was not very friendly or welcoming either.
Thus, we decided not to stay there and continued on to Lausanne where we had a miserable experience
in the other direction with Formula 1 hotel, but that is another story.
Daniel Deutscher, owner of DEKA Treuhand, a hospitality consulting firm in Frauenfeld (TG),
was very surprised when he learned that the Golden Arch Hotel was positioned as a four-star hotel:
In Switzerland, McDonald’s restaurants are perceived as cheap fast-food places, while a four-star
hotel means luxury. In order to receive four stars (by the Swiss Hotel Association (,
you have to provide at least two hot meals and room service from noon to 2.30 p.m. and from 7:00
p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It would have never crossed my mind that a McDonald’s restaurant would qualify as
a four-star hotel. They should have positioned the hotel in the three-star range or built a second, finedining
restaurant in addition to a hamburger place.
18 Bernstein, “Want Fries with that McDonald’s Room?”
8 A02-05-0017
Mr. Deutscher was also very surprised when he learned that the chosen brand name was “Golden
While in the English-speaking world, the term “Golden Arches” is easily identified as McDonald’s
logo, it does not translate into the German language. Most Swiss people do not know how to translate
“arches.” Even worse, the word is pronounced similar to the German word for posterior.
A typical airport hotel served several segments simultaneously, and Golden Arch would be no exception.
The largest segment was made up of groups that were booked by tour operators and airlines. Tour
operators booked airport hotels for outgoing guests (people living in Switzerland, Southern Germany,
and Eastern Austria using Zürich Airport as their take-off base) and incoming guests (people from all
over arriving in Zürich). Group business was usually strong in the summer and over the weekends.
Average room rates were just a little bit higher than 100 CHF ($80 USD) and most rooms were occupied
by two guests, driving the cost per guest and night down to 50 CHF ($40 USD).
Airlines needed rooms for their crews and for layovers. Accommodating airline crews was a tricky
business. First, crews liked to stay at the same hotel whenever possible, and, therefore, there were usually
long-term relationships between the individual hotels and the crews. Second, airlines often had contracts
with hotel chains to accommodate their employees in the same hotel chain around the globe.
Third, it was important that the captains and co-pilots have better rooms than flight attendants, e.g.,
suites versus standard rooms. Crew members also liked hotels with a certain level of dining options.
“Layovers” were passengers who missed a flight or who had to stay close to an airport once a flight
had been cancelled or delayed. Airlines usually paid less than 100 CHF ($80 USD) for layover rooms,
and flexibility was crucial. The hotel could get a phone call at 5 p.m. asking whether they could take 60
layovers for that night. If they only had 30 rooms left, the airline might check with another hotel that
could accommodate more passengers in order to reduce complexity.
A third subsegment of this group was long distance buses, driving from the Netherlands, Scandinavian
countries, or Germany to France or Italy. They chose hotels in close proximity to the Autobahn.
Golden Arch was only one kilometer away from the Autobahn.
The second largest segment was business travelers. They paid a higher average price than groups,
but companies usually got a 20% discount off the rack rate (official room rate). Key accounts were large
companies that had settled high-volume contracts with certain hotel chains. For example, German
technology company Siemens had a contract with Choice Hotel group for 100,000 rooms per year.
Golden Arch was close to Zürich Messe (exhibition area), which generated additional bookings during
exhibition time (when occupancy rate was high everywhere and rates were going up). Because of the
small-to-medium sizes of the meeting and conference rooms, Golden Arch was not able to host larger
conferences, which was considered a fast growing market for four- and five-star hotels.
The third group was frequent individual travelers (FIT), who usually paid the highest price. Because
Switzerland is a small country and most travelers could drive to the airport easily, there was not
much outgoing business. Therefore, individual travelers were guests from mainly Europe, the United
States, and Asia.
Profit Model
There are two main profit drivers to consider in this kind of hotel property: occupancy rate (number of
rooms sold of percentage of number of rooms available), and average revenue per room. Since most of
the costs are fixed, profit maximization leads to a similar result as revenue maximization. Based on
industry benchmarks, an occupancy rate of 72% (ranging from 78% in August to 65% in January) was
A02-05-0017 9
forecasted. The breakdown by segment (based on rooms, not on guests) was 31% business, 42% groups
(paying the lowest rates), 21% individual tourists (paying the highest rates), and 6% others (see Exhibit
5 for details). Based on this breakdown, an average room rate of 128.78 CHF ($103.52 USD) was
projected, resulting in room revenues of 7,134,500 CHF ($5,735,129 USD) per year (Exhibit 6).
On the cost side, fixed costs were roughly 360,000 CHF ($289,389 USD) per month. Since room
cleaning and laundry were outsourced, variable costs per room were 34.13 CHF ($27.43 USD), additional
variable revenues (conference rooms, minibar, phone, parking, etc.) were 11.97 CHF ($9.62
USD), resulting in a net variable cost per room of 22.16 CHF ($17.81 USD). Furthermore, credit card
commissions averaged 1.97%, and travel agency commission averaged 2.73% of total revenues. Another
1.09% went to debtor write-offs, flowers, decorations, newspapers, magazines, etc. (see Exhibit 7
for cost details).
Based on the volume of the building, the hotel part was nine times larger than the restaurant part,
resulting in an investment of 28.8 million CHF ($23.15 million USD); 20% was equity, 80% was
financed by a three-year mortgage for 3% per annum. The standard depreciation was 5% per annum of
the nominal investment. The projected profit before taxes of 1,165,566 CHF ($936,950 USD) would
lead to a 20.24% annual return of the 5.76 million CHF ($4.63 million USD) investment in a country
with almost no inflation (see Exhibit 8 for a cost breakdown).
10 A02-05-0017
Exhibit 1 Pictures of the Golden Arch Hotel in Rümlang
Shower outside “Sleeping under golden arches” of the bathroom
© Pictures by Nancy Stephens, 2001
Hotel entry with Golden Arch airport shuttle bus
Hotel (left) and McDonald’s restaurant (right)
Front with Golden Arch logo
A02-05-0017 11
Exhibit 2 Floor Plan of the Golden Arch Hotel in Rümlang
Floor plan of two rooms
12 A02-05-0017
Exhibit 3 New Hotels, Planned Extensions, and Planned
Hotels in the Zürich Airport Area
Zürich Area
1. Novotel***, Ibis**, Etap*, 457 rooms
2. Ibis**, Formule 1*, World Trend Center, 281 rooms
3. Turicum***, 250 rooms
4. Women’s Hotel, 27 rooms
5. Bellerive au Lac****, 51 Zimmer
6. Stadthotel***(*), 20 Zimmer
Airport Area
7. Flughafen Airport Hotel**** (at the airport), 300–350 rooms
8. Golden Arch****, 200 rooms
9. SAP Hotel***, 50 rooms
10. Astron***(*), 140 rooms
11. Allegra***, 132 rooms
12. Kopf*** Bülach, 34 rooms
13. Hilton*****, plus 100 rooms
14. Mövenpick****, plus 50–100 rooms
15. Seminarhotel, 300 rooms
16. Airport Park****, 245 rooms
17. Business Hotel****, 180 rooms
Status as of June 2000
1, 5, 11, 12: recently opened
2, 4, 8: in construction phase
13, 14: extension planned
3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17: development planned
Source: Hosp, Janine, Bald blässt ein scharfer Wind, Tages-Anzeiger (2000)
17. Juni, S. 13
7 11
14 15
9 16
5 Kilometer
A02-05-0017 13
Source: Bundesamt für Statistik, Bern und “Ein Hotel in Zürich
müsste man haben,” NZZ (2000) 5 August, S. 41.
Number of
Number of
Number of
Beds Utilization
Basel 40 53,804 3,855 45.0%
Bern 32 50,624 2,796 58.4%
Geneva 92 176,295 10,380 54.8%
Lausanne 37 58,084 3,700 50.6%
Lugano 72 95,669 5,979 51.6%
Luzern 52 107,225 5,364 64.5%
Zurich 102 186,777 10,130 59.5%
Region1 20 58,672 3,142 60.2%
City Comparison Hotel Industry May 2000
1 Bassersdorf, Dietlikon, Kloten, Lufingen, Niederhasli, Oberglatt,
Opfikon(-Glattbrugg), Regensdorf, Ruemlang, Wallisellen, Winkel.
Exhibit 4 Statistical Data
Source: BFS.
Number of
Number of
Beds Utilization
May 2000 102 10,130 59.5%
1999 99 9,516 58.7%
1995 98 9,654 50.8%
1990 104 10,193 57.8%
1985 112 10,397 61.8%
1980 119 10,629 58.1%
1975 125 10,931 53.9%
1970 133 8,489 72.9%
1965 124 7,548 41.4%
1960 126 7,107 75.9%
1955 128 6,914 67.8%
1950 105 5,074 73.8%
Zurich’s Hotel Industry Since 1950
14 A02-05-0017
Exhibit 5 Monthly Forecast of Occupancy and Rates by Segments*
*Disclaimer: All financial figures are based on industry benchmark data for this type and size of hotel in the Zurich
Airport Area. No figures have been provided by Golden Arch or McDonald’s.
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
Occ% 65 68 68 71 72 75 78 78 75 72 71 70 71.92
Rooms 4252 4017 4448 4494 4710 4748 5102 5102 4748 4710 4494 4579 55404
Revenue CHF 539322 535203 591123 658909 601500 569985 591574.6 620758 586601 631029 617831 590652 7134488
Avr. Rate CHF 126.84 133.23 132.90 146.62 127.71 120.05 115.95 121.67 123.55 133.98 137.48 128.99 128.77
Guests/Room 1.30 1.40 1.30 1.4 1.5 1.55 1.7 1.7 1.55 1.55 1.55 1.45
Guests 5528 5624 5782 6292 7065 7359 8673 8673 7359 7301 6965.7 6639.6 83262
Occ% 65 Jan Occ% 68 Feb Occ% 68 Mär
Rooms avail 6541 Rooms avail 5908 Rooms avail 6541
Rooms sold 4252 Rooms sold 4017 Rooms sold 4448
% Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate
Business 40 1701 135 229589 Business 39 1567 145 227186 Business 33 1468 145 212831
Groups 25 1063 95 100977 Groups 25 1004 95 95414 Groups 33 1468 95 139441
FIT’s 30 1275 147 187498 FIT’s 17 683 166 113372 FIT’s 25 1112 168 186811
Diverse 5 213 100 21258 Diverse 19 763 130 99231 Diverse 9 400 130 52040
100 4252 539322 100 4017 535203 100 4448 591123
Average Rate 126.84 Average Rate 133.23 Average Rate 132.90
Occ% 71 Apr Occ% 72 Mai Occ% 75 Juni
Rooms avail 6330 Rooms avail 6541 Rooms avail 6330
Rooms sold 4494 Rooms sold 4710 Rooms sold 4748
% Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate
Business 36 1618 155 250782 Business 32 1507 145 218522 Business 32 1519 145 220284
Groups 34 1528 105 160447 Groups 44 2072 100 207219 Groups 50 2374 95 225506
FIT’s 23 1034 197 203637 FIT’s 17 801 166 132903 FIT’s 12 570 153 87164
Diverse 7 315 140 44044 Diverse 7 330 130 42857 Diverse 6 285 130 37031
100 4494 658909 100 4710 601500 100 4748 569985
Average Rate 146.62 Average Rate 127.71 Average Rate 120.05
Occ% 78 Jul Occ% 78 Aug Occ% 75 Sep
Rooms avail 6541 Rooms avail 6541 Rooms avail 6330
Rooms sold 5102 Rooms sold 5102 Rooms sold 4748
% Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate
Business 21 1071 145 155355 Business 29 1480 145 214538 Business 28 1329 150 199395
Groups 65 3316 100 331629 Groups 53 2704 100 270405 Groups 60 2849 105 299093
FIT’s 10 510 153 78060 FIT’s 14 714 153 109284 FIT’s 8 380 167 63427
Diverse 4 204 130 26530 Diverse 4 204 130 26530 Diverse 4 190 130 24687
100 5102 591575 100 5102 620758 100 4748 586601
Average Rate 115.95 Average Rate 121.67 Average Rate 123.55
Occ% 72 Okt Occ% 71 Nov Occ% 70 Dez
Rooms avail 6541 Rooms avail 6330 Rooms avail 6541
Rooms sold 4710 Rooms sold 4494 Rooms sold 4579
% Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate % Rooms Rate
Business 23 1083 150 162478 Business 40 1798 145 260669 Business 28 1282 135 173075
Groups 45 2119 105 222525 Groups 27 1213 100 121346 Groups 28 1282 100 128204
FIT’s 28 1319 168 221536 FIT’s 29 1303 163 212446 FIT’s 40 1831 148 271059
Diverse 4 188 130 24490 Diverse 4 180 130 23370 Diverse 4 183 100 18315
100 4710 631029 100 4494 617831 100 4579 590652
Average Rate 133.98 Average Rate 137.48 Average Rate 128.99
Source Rooms Revenues Rate
Business 17423 31% 2524705 35% 144.91
Groups 22993 42% 2302204 32% 100.13
FIT’s 11532 21% 1867196 26% 161.91
Misc 3455 6% 440383 6% 127.47
Total 55402 100% 7134488 100% 128.78
A02-05-0017 15
Exhibit 6 Monthly Profit and Loss Forecast
GOLDEN ARCH Rümlang Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Rooms 4252 4017 4448 4494 4710 4748 5102 5102 4748 4710 4494 4579 55404
Guests 5528 5624 5782 6292 7065 7359 8673 8673 7359 7301 6966 6640 83262
Room Occupancy % 65 68 68 71 72 75 78 78 75 72 71 70 71.92
Room Average CHF 126.84 133.23 132.90 146.62 127.71 120.05 115.95 121.67 123.55 133.98 137.48 128.99 128.77
Rooms CHF 539’300 535’200 591’100 658’900 601’500 570’000 591’600 620’800 586’600 631’000 617’800 590’700 7’134’500
Conference rooms CHF 4’422 4’499 4’626 5’033 5’652 5’888 6’939 6’939 5’888 5’840 5’573 2’656 63’954
Total Lodging CHF 543’722 539’699 595’726 663’933 607’152 575’888 598’539 627’739 592’488 636’840 623’373 593’356 7’198’454
Minibar CHF 8’291 8’436 8’674 9’437 10’598 11’039 13’010 13’010 11’039 10’951 10’449 9’959 124’893
Total Food&Beverage CHF 8’291 8’436 8’674 9’437 10’598 11’039 13’010 13’010 11’039 10’951 10’449 9’959 124’893
Phone CHF 6’633 6’749 6’939 7’550 8’478 8’831 10’408 10’408 8’831 8’761 8’359 7’967 99’914
Parking CHF 13’819 14’060 14’456 15’729 17’663 18’399 21’684 21’683 18’399 18’251 17’414 16’599 208’154
Pay TV/Internet CHF 11’055 11’248 11’565 12’583 14’130 14’719 17’347 17’347 14’719 14’601 13’931 13’279 166’524
Total Misc. 31’507 32’057 32’960 35’862 40’271 41’949 49’439 49’438 41’949 41’613 39’704 37’845 474’592
Total Revenue CHF 583’520 580’191 637’360 709’233 658’020 628’875 660’987 690’187 645’475 689’404 673’525 641’160 7’797’938
Total Revenue 583’520 580’191 637’360 709’233 658’020 628’875 660’987 690’187 645’475 689’404 673’525 641’160 7’797’938
Food & Beverage -2’322 -2’362 -2’429 -2’642 -2’967 -3’091 -3’643 -3’643 -3’091 -3’066 -2’926 -2’789 -34’971
Direct costs third party lodging + misc -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -2’000 -24’000
Gross Profit I 579’198 575’829 632’931 704’591 653’053 623’784 655’344 684’544 640’384 684’338 668’599 636’371 7’738’967
Salaries -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -94’788 -1’137’450
Social Security -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -11’299 -135’585
HR Costs -10’000 -9’999 -9’998 -9’997 -9’996 -9’995 -9’994 -9’993 -9’992 -9’991 -9’990 -9’989 -119’934
Total employee costs -116’086 -116’085 -116’084 -116’083 -116’082 -116’081 -116’080 -116’079 -116’078 -116’077 -116’076 -116’075 -1’392’969
Gross Profit II 463’112 459’744 516’846 588’507 536’971 507’703 539’264 568’465 524’306 568’261 552’523 520’296 6’345’998
Insurance and Licence -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -8’000 -96’000
Electricity, Gas -16’055 -16’248 -16’565 -17’583 -19’130 -19’719 -22’347 -22’347 -19’719 -19’601 -18’931 -18’279 -226’523
Water -5’422 -5’499 -5’626 -6’033 -6’652 -6’888 -7’939 -7’939 -6’888 -6’840 -6’573 -6’312 -78’609
Cleaning third party -97’796 -92’391 -102’304 -103’362 -108’330 -109’204 -117’346 -117’346 -109’204 -108’330 -103’362 -105’317 -1’274’292
Trash -3’264 -3’312 -3’391 -3’646 -4’033 -4’180 -4’837 -4’837 -4’180 -4’150 -3’983 -3’820 -47’631
Office, electric, misc supplies -4’106 -4’125 -4’156 -4’258 -4’413 -4’472 -4’735 -4’735 -4’472 -4’460 -4’393 -4’328 -52’652
Operation -134’643 -129’574 -140’042 -142’883 -150’558 -152’462 -165’203 -165’203 -152’462 -151’382 -145’242 -146’055 -1’775’708
Advertising, Promotion, PR -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -30’000 -360’000
Credit card commission -10’503 -10’443 -11’472 -12’766 -11’844 -11’320 -11’898 -12’423 -11’619 -12’409 -12’123 -11’541 -140’363
Commission travel agency -14’588 -14’505 -15’934 -17’731 -16’451 -15’722 -16’525 -17’255 -16’137 -17’235 -16’838 -16’029 -194’948
Advertising, Sales -55’091 -54’948 -57’406 -60’497 -58’295 -57’042 -58’422 -59’678 -57’755 -59’644 -58’962 -57’570 -695’311
Entertainment, Radio TV -5’422 -5’499 -5’626 -6’033 -6’652 -6’888 -7’939 -7’939 -6’888 -6’840 -6’573 -6’312 -78’609
Accounting -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -6’000 -72’000
Consulting, Legal consulting -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -42’000
Telephone -6’528 -6’624 -6’782 -7’292 -8’065 -8’359 -9’673 -9’673 -8’359 -8’301 -7’966 -7’640 -95’262
Administration -21’450 -21’623 -21’908 -22’825 -24’217 -24’747 -27’112 -27’112 -24’747 -24’641 -24’038 -23’451 -287’871
Flowers, decoration -1’459 -1’450 -1’593 -1’773 -1’645 -1’572 -1’652 -1’725 -1’614 -1’724 -1’684 -1’603 -19’495
Newspapers, Magazines -292 -290 -319 -355 -329 -314 -330 -345 -323 -345 -337 -321 -3’899
Security -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -3’500 -42’000
Debtor write-offs -4’085 -4’061 -4’462 -4’965 -4’606 -4’402 -4’627 -4’831 -4’518 -4’826 -4’715 -4’488 -54’586
Other expenses -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -2’500 -30’000
Misc. expenses -11’835 -11’802 -12’374 -13’092 -12’580 -12’289 -12’610 -12’902 -12’455 -12’894 -12’735 -12’412 -149’979
Operation profit b4 Mgt Fee 240’093 241’797 285’115 349’211 291’321 261’164 275’917 303’570 276’887 319’700 311’546 280’808 3’437’129
Repair and maintenance -10’503 -10’443 -11’472 -12’766 -11’844 -11’320 -11’898 -12’423 -11’619 -12’409 -12’123 -11’541 -140’363
Gross Operating Profit 229’590 231’353 273’643 336’444 279’477 249’844 264’019 291’147 265’268 307’291 299’423 269’267 3’296’766
Mortgage interests -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -57’600 -691’200
Operating Cash Flow 171’990 173’753 216’043 278’844 221’877 192’244 206’419 233’547 207’668 249’691 241’823 211’667 2’605’566
Depreciations -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -120’000 -1’440’000
Profit/Loss before Tax 51’990 53’753 96’043 158’844 101’877 72’244 86’419 113’547 87’668 129’691 121’823 91’667 1’165’566
16 A02-05-0017
Exhibit 8: Investment and Yearly Building Costs
Investment SFr. 3 2’000’000
Hotel 90% SFr. 2 8’800’000 (10% Restaurant)
Mortgage 80% SFr. 2 3’040’000 (20% Equity)
Interest 3% SFr. 691’200 (Mortgage interest per year)
Depreciation 5% SFr. 1 ‘440’000 (based on the hotel investment)
Exhibit 7 Cost Breakdown in Variable Costs and Fixed Costs
The variable costs and non-lodging revenue are split into three parts:
• Variable costs per room (for simplification, the variable costs per room and the variable
costs per guest are not separated)
• Variable costs as a percentage of lodging revenue (not total revenue)
• Fixed costs
GOLDEN ARCH Rümlang per Room %Revenue Fix per month
Conference rooms CHF SFr. 1.15
Minibar CHF SFr. 2.25
Phone CHF SFr. 1.80
Parking CHF SFr. 3.76
Pay TV/Internet CHF SFr. 3.01
Food & Beverage SFr. -0.63
Direct costs third party lodging + misc SFr. – 2’000
Salaries SFr. – 94’788
Social Security SFr. – 11’299
HR Costs SFr. – 9’995
Insurance and Licence SFr. – 8’000
Electricity, Gas SFr. -3.01 SFr. – 5’000
Water SFr. -1.20 SFr. – 1’000
Cleaning third party SFr. -23.00
Trash SFr. -0.75 SFr. -500
Office, electric, misc supplies SFr. -0.30 SFr. – 3’000
Advertising, Promotion, PR SFr. – 30’000
Credit card commission -1.97%
Commission travel agency -2.73%
Entertainment, Radio TV SFr. -1.20 SFr. – 1’000
Accounting SFr. – 6’000
Consulting, Legal consulting SFr. – 3’500
Telephone SFr. -1.50 SFr. – 1’000
Flowers, decoration -0.27%
Newspapers, Magazines -0.05%
Security SFr. – 3’500
Debtor write-offs -0.77%
Other expenses SFr. – 2’500
Repair and maintenance SFr. -2.53
Mortgage interests SFr. – 57’600
Depreciations SFr. – 120’000
Total SFr. -22.16 -5.79% SFr. – 360’681