Fast food, faster

McDon­ald’s in­vests in dig­i­tal, in­clud­ing self-serve kiosks


McDon­ald’s Corp, which re­placed its CEO last year in the hope of turn­ing around sales, plans to in­crease its in­vest­ment in dig­i­tal en­deav­ors, in­clud­ing self-serve kiosks and a mo­bile-or­der­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

The in­vest­ment marks a “very sig­nif­i­cant acceleration” from cur­rent lev­els, Jim Sap­ping­ton, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions and tech­nol­ogy sys­tems, said in an in­ter­view. He de­clined to give spe­cific num­bers, but said the spend­ing will con­tinue dur­ing the next two years and will be booked as cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures and gen­eral and ad­min­is­tra­tive costs.

“En­hanc­ing the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence is a critical part of us grow­ing our busi­ness,” he said. “If we’re more con­ve­nient, our cus­tomers are go­ing to be more will­ing to come to McDon­ald’s.”

While the world’s largest restau­rant chain has man­aged to re­vive same-store sales growth, it has lagged be­hind com­peti­tors on the tech­nol­ogy front. Star­bucks Corp and Dunkin’ Donuts boast mil­lions of re­wards-pro­gram mem­bers, while Taco Bell al­lows din­ers to or­der via a mo­bile app. Those types of pro­grams fre­quently al­low restau­rants to lock in cus­tomers.

McDon­ald’s has had suc­cess since it started all-day break­fasts in the US more than a year ago. But that growth has slowed, and the com­pa­ny­may need some­thing new to sus­tain sales. It also has seen a pos­i­tive cus­tomer re­sponse since declar­ing its chicken an­tibi­otic-free in the US, adding real but­ter to its break­fast muffins and promis­ing cage­free eggs.

A boost in tech­nol­ogy may help — the push will be fo­cused on McDon­ald’s 10 largest mar­kets, which in­clude the US, Aus­tralia, Canada, France and China.

Next year, McDon­ald’s will be­gin in­tro­duc­ing smart­phone or­der­ing and pay­ing to its do­mes­tic lo­ca­tions, build­ing on its cur­rent app, which mainly fea­tures dis­counts. The Big Mac seller plans to add mo­bile or­der-and-pay ca­pa­bil­i­ties to as many as 25,000 of its ap­prox­i­mately 36,500 lo­ca­tions glob­ally next year and in 2018.

After or­der­ing, cus­tomers will be able to pick up their food curb­side in aMcDon­ald’s park­ing lot, or by go­ing through the drive-through. The com­pany is still try­ing to pick a dig­i­tal part­ner to help it de­ploy the mo­bile app.

Another fo­cus will be kiosks, dig­i­tal menu boards, ta­ble ser­vice and the chain’s so-called Ex­pe­ri­ence of the Fu­ture, which high­lights burger cus­tomiza­tion. The touch­screens are now in about 7,000 of its restau­rants across the globe, heav­ily con­cen­trated in Europe.

Self-serve kiosks and mo­bile or­der­ing­may ul­ti­mately speed up McDon­ald’s ser­vice, which has been crit­i­cized as be­ing too slow in the past. Cus­tomers can build meals at their own pace, tak­ing time to tai­lor fare, check nu­tri­tion facts and compare prices, Sap­ping­ton said.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult now to ask for some­thing to be added to your dou­ble cheese­burger, or ask for no onions,” he said. “Do­ing that through the kiosks, do­ing that through the app, is very easy, is very nat­u­ral.”


A self-ser­vice card pay­ment touch screen panel dis­plays sand­wich op­tions in­side a McDon­ald’s restau­rant in Manch­ester, the United King­dom.

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