If you have kids or grandchildren, you've witnessed firsthand the almost opiate-like appeal on children of the McDonald's Happy Meal.
And trust me, it's not the tiny burger the kids want.
It's all about the toy contained within the box.
The Happy Meals once included some amazing bonus toys which ranged from Pogs to Power Rangers to Transformers. Each of the tiny add-ons were a memorable addition to a meal which was not nearly as exciting without them.
That fact is hardly lost on McDonald's and their massive marketing department.
McDonald's IT director in Britain, Mark Fabes, now says that the mega-chain is considering placing a 3D printer in each of their thousands of restaurants which would allow them to 3D print Happy Meal toys at will. Fabes dropped that bombshell during a panel discussion on emerging technologies at an event in Munich.
McDonald's says they have no formal plan to implement the idea – there might be issues as to the appropriateness of using 3D printing machines inside food outlets and production speed is obviously a question.
Consider for a moment that McDonald's distributes more toys per year than Toys-R-Us, includes a toy in more than 20% of all its sales and spends more than $70 million a year advertising Happy Meals alone, and you might begin to understand what it would mean for the company to be able to cut costs on those meals. However, those same numbers, broken down to the single restaurant level, indicate a need for ultra fast 3D printing that probably can't be met.