McDonald’s supersizes efforts to stay popular
ROMEOVILLE, ILL.» McDonald’s is hoping to make a difference in its future seven seconds at a time.
The company that helped define fast food is making supersized efforts to reverse its fading popularity and catch up to a landscape that has evolved around it. That includes expanding delivery, digital ordering kiosks in restaurants and rolling out an app that saves precious seconds.
Much of the work is on display in an unmarked warehouse near the company’s headquarters in suburban Chicago, where a blowup of a mobile phone screen shows the app launching nationally later this year. McDonald’s estimates it would take 10 seconds for a customer to tell an employee their order number from the app, down from the 17second average of ordering at the drive-thru, a difference that could help ease pileups. Elsewhere at the Innovation Center, the digital ordering kiosk shows how customers can skip lines at the register.
“Five, 10 years ago, we were the dominant player in convenience, as convenience was defined in those days,” CEO Steve Easterbrook said last month. “But convenience continually gets redefined, and we haven’t modernized.”
An estimated 613,000 places were selling either food or drink in the U.S. last year, up 17 percent from a decade earlier, according to government figures. Supermarkets and convenience stores are offering more prepared foods, and mealkit delivery companies have been expanding.
“Better burger” places like Shake Shack and Habit Burger Grill don’t come close to McDonald’s roughly 14,000 U.S. locations, but they’re growing. And even if Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts don’t serve burgers, they are among those promoting food more.
“They’re still taking cusworkers tomers from the same market pool,” said Nick Karavites, a McDonald’s franchisee with 22 locations in the Chicago area.
One main focus is the drive-thru, where McDonald’s gets about 70 percent of its business.
Customers who place orders on the mobile app, for instance, could pull into a designated parking spot where an employee would bring out their order. That would theoretically ease backups at the drive-thru.
Then there’s the partnership with UberEats to offer delivery.
Such changes aren’t likely to transform operations overnight, since most of McDonald’s customers might prefer to order the way they always have.
“That’s like turning a very large ship,” said Karavites, noting the range of company efforts intended to build sales over time. At his remodeled restaurant in Chicago where delivery was recently launched, he said sales are already climbing.