They are now putting pressure on managers to enforce staff courtesy and customer service.
The company saw a sales dip in recent months, compared to the better-than-average sales it saw during the height of the recession.
They believe this is directly related to the attitudes of their employees.
Last month, McDonald's bosses and franchise owners held a webcast, complete with slides indicating where they needed to improve.
Wall Street Journal obtained the slides, where one suggested that one-in-five customer grievances stemmed from "rude or unprofessional employees."
But customers also complains about the speed of McDonald's, indicating that it was too slow at times.
One slide said complaints about speed have "increased significantly over the past six months." Another said customers find service "chaotic."
Steve Levigne, vice president of business research for McDonald's USA, said "Service is broken."
One franchise owner said, "The new leadership has decided to focus on customer satisfaction as a real driver for us to build the brand and build sales. So for us to maximize the potential that's out there, we've got to be the leader in guest satisfaction."
A McDonald's spokeswoman said, "McDonald's USA and our franchisees are absolutely committed to doing even more to consistently deliver a great restaurant experience for every customer at every visit."
But because about 90% of McDonald's restaurants are owned by independent operators, it will likely take time to achieve their goal of friendly and speedy service.
One franchisee said, "I think it's an ongoing problem, and it always will be."