Rather than scroll through the latest fake news stories while you’re standing on line to order that All-Day Egg McMuffin, get ready to place your order on a self-service kiosk, take an assigned seat and await delivery by wait staff. And, next year, you’ll be able to order and pay from your mobile device before you even walk through the door or drive up to the window.
During an event at a refurbished McDonald’s on Chambers Street in New York City yesterday, CEO Steve Easterbrook and cohorts “announced changes that could reshape the diner’s experience, saying that it would expand its digital self-serve ordering stations and table service to all of its 14,000 American restaurants,” Stephanie Strom reports in the New York Times.
“The changes are already starting to show up at locations in Florida, New York and Southern California, where 500 restaurants have been updated. Restaurants in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, D.C., and Seattle will get upgrades in early 2017,” writes Julia Horowitz for CNNMoney.
“The 61-year-old fast-food company has been overhauling its food with simpler ingredients and selling breakfast items 24-hours a day, but it is playing catch-up in the technology realm to early adopters such as Domino's Pizza, Starbucks Corp and Panera Bread,” point out Reuters’ Chris Prentice and Lisa Baertlein.
“McDonald's will pilot mobile ordering in the United States in the first half of 2017 and do a national rollout in the second half, Chris Kempczinski, a former Kraft Foods executive who will take over as McDonald's USA president on Jan. 1, told journalists” at the event, they write. “Mobile ordering and payment will be added to the McDonald's app, which has been downloaded by 16 million people,” according to Kempczinski.
Right now, the app’s main features are “access to exclusive deals, a heads-up on sweepstakes, fun extras and more!” (This week you can get free hash browns with any All Day Breakfast purchase, for example, among other offers at participating locations.)
“Typically, the majority of our crew is behind the counter, and that counter literally has been a barrier between our crew and the customer. We’ve not cutting crew; we’re redeploying them,” Easterbrook said at the event, reports John Glenday for The Drum.
“Technophobes will still have the option to queue the traditional way but it is hoped that the solution will keep customers coming back for more by giving them a comfy seat whilst they await their food,” Glenday writes.
“The shift is significant for a company most responsible for popularizing fast food — along with a more stripped-down approach to restaurant service. But competition and the rise of fast-casual chains have elevated expectations,” point outBloomberg’s Leslie Patton and Craig Giammona.
“A drop in the cost of groceries has added pressure to fast-food chains this year because it’s increasingly cheap for customers to eat at home. Restaurant companies also have blamed anxiety around the presidential election for hurting results,” add Patton and Giammona.
Dubbed “Experience the Future” by the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company, “mobile ordering, kiosks and table service would be a monumental change for a brand that has long been known for being slow, methodical and even behind the times when it comes to technology,” observes Jonathan Maze for Nation’s Restaurant News.
“But the chain is intent on changing that image. In 2014, McDonald’s announced plans to bolster its digital staff from about 20 employees to as many as 250 workers,” he continues. “McDonald’s has been aggressively rolling out its Experience of the Future in many European markets and other areas in the past couple of years.”
You can get a feel for the “experience” in a 360° video posted to McDonald’s Facebook page.
“The whole experience that we’ve been announcing today is to make customer’s lives easier, more convenient, and more enjoyable,” Easterbook tellsCNNMoney’s Cristina Alesci in a video interview. “It’s not meant to be life-changing. It’s just meant to modernize and evolve the McDonald’s experience. Just to make us a better McDonald’s. It’s not to be a different McDonald’s.”
Phew, I guess. Okay, where do I punch for a “regular” coffee?