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McDonald's, Starbucks Grow More Alike Each Day

Beauty and the Beast; The Prince and the Pauper; city mouse meets country mouse: Three classic tales where opposites cross paths, learn from each other, and live happily ever after.

Which is exactly what McDonald's and Starbucks would like to do.

Omnipresent McDonald's, boasts 30,000 eat-fast and drive-through restaurants in 119 countries. And upscale Starbucks, the coffee-bar king, helped hook America on premium, sweet and frothy coffee creations.

Mickey D's has kids' "happy meals" and plastic-covered tables and chairs. At Starbucks, caramel "frappicinos," rumpled copies of the New York Times, and overstuffed couches are the vogue.

You get small, medium, and large Cokes at McDonald's. At Starbucks, if you don't use the proper words -- "tall," "grande," or "venti" -- to order your coffee, the baristas wrinkle their noses at you. You can even specify what they call "skinny," "dry" or "upside down" treatment of your steaming drinks.

Two different worlds. But not if the companies get their way, especially at breakfast time.

Along with muffins and scones, many Starbucks now have drive-through windows and sell breakfast sandwiches, just like McDonald's. Starbucks' are snootier, of course, with spinach and eggs, herbed sausage and aged cheddar cheese.

McDonald's, meantime, is going "uptown" with its own, premium Arabica-bean coffees, high-class pastries, and toasted Italian sandwiches. They're served in a wood-paneled corner of the store called the "McCafe."

So while McDonald's takes a bite out of Starbucks' clientele, Starbucks has begun to nibble in Mickey D's terrain. It's a new twist on the old story: burger mouse meets coffee mouse.