STEVEN INSKEEP, host:
Okay, so it's going to cost you more to drive through your local McDonald's. But high gas prices apparently are not hurting the burger chain, billions and billions still being served. McDonald's yesterday reported double digit sales growth globally and in the United States sales rose a robust 8 percent.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Lattes and new breakfast offerings are apparently contributing to the company's good fortune. And in one suburb here in Los Angeles a McDonald's owner is boosting his fortunes even more. He's redesigned his outlet according to the Chinese philosophy of feng shui.
The ancient design practice emphasizes harmony and it's used by more and more businesses, especially here in California, where there are large Asian populations. But this is the first time feng shui has graced the Golden Arches. NPR's Ben Berman reports.
(Soundbite of music)
BEN BERGMAN: Ah yes, vase made with bamboo, earth-toned colors, waterfalls. This has to be what the inventors of feng shui had in mind thousands of years ago.
Unidentified Man #1: Hi. Welcome to McDonald's. How can I help you?
BERGMAN: Welcome to the country's first feng shui McDonald's.
Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, can I get a chicken nugget Happy Meal?
BERGMAN: This Mickey D's in Hacienda Heights, California sounds just like the thousands of others, until you meet the owner.
Mr. MARK BROWNSTEIN (Owner): The doors don't align, so we confuse the evil spirits and they stay out.
BERGMAN: Mark Brownstein owns and operates 23 McDonald's in Southern California, including this one.
Mr. BROWNSTEIN: I love the flow of the store. There are no right angles. Everything's curved. Even the tables are rounded.
BERGMAN: Sitting at one of those rounded tables next to a waterfall, Brownstein says going feng shui was all about appealing to local customers.
Mr. BROWNSTEIN: We wanted to make this store inviting to everybody, but particularly to the larger and growing Asian population in this area. In the last ten years it's gone from 27 to 36 percent Asian.
BERGMAN: There was just one little problem: Brownstein didn't really know much about feng shui. So he hired Dr. Chi-Jen Liu, a fourth-generation feng shui grand master.
Dr. CHI-JEN LIU (Feng Shui Grand Master): Grand master is when you have a whole life to study about feng shui.
BERGMAN: The grand master works with his daughter, Master Jenny Liu, as feng shui consultants, paid by the square foot. They've been hired by real estate companies, casinos, toy makers, and now McDonald's, to bring harmony to fast food.
Ms. JENNY LIU (Feng Shui Master): The (unintelligible) fountain represents water, represent wholeness, fulfillment. And the square fountain represents earth, stability and permanence. So together to create balance, yin and yang. So when you sit here you get to appreciate this and it's a very primal form that's been used since the beginning of time (unintelligible)
BERGMAN: For all the suggestions the Lius made, there was one thing they couldn't change - the menu. Just like any other McDonald's, this one serves up trays and trays of fries, Big Macs and milkshakes. But Master Liu says the effects of feng shui are so powerful that it doesn't really matter what you're eating.
Ms. LIU: When you're in an environment that's wonderful and peaceful and soothing, your whole mindset relaxes.
BERGMAN: And Grand Master Liu says when your mind relaxes...
Mr. LIU: The food becomes good. So mental very important. (Unintelligible) oh, wonderful. That part stronger than the poison food.
BERGMAN: So it counteracts it?
Mr. LIU: Of course. That is the point. People love it.
BERGMAN: That seems to be true for at least one customer eating here during a recent lunch hour. Tina Turner - no, not that Tina Turner - seems positively giddy about her meal.
Ms. TINA TURNER (Customer): I had a double cheeseburger...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. TURNER: ...and fries.
BERGMAN: Turner says she feels very calm eating here.
Ms. TURNER: It's not like any other McDonald's. You can, you know, you can relax and have a meal and enjoy it. My husband hasn't been in here, and I told him, when you go in, you'll see a leather booth at McDonald's, I said you're not going to believe it.
BERGMAN: Since going feng shui a couple of months ago, this McDonald's has brought serenity to its owners in at least one way. Business is up by double digit margins.
Ben Bergman, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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