McDonald’s took one giant leap into its digital future this week, saying it's switching to self-serve order stations and table delivery for all U.S. in-restaurant dining, and will soon roll out a new mobile order and pay system for the drive-thru.
The huge burger-centric chain said it piloted the new in-store system at 500 revamped U.S. restaurants in New York, Florida and Southern California over the course of about 44,000 orders and apparently liked what it saw. As a result, the new "justforyou experience" will now put vertical tabletop ordering touchscreens at tables, all but eliminating the order counter that has graced the Golden Arches locations' since day one. Instead, McDonald's crews will hand-deliver orders to customers tables in their restaurants, thus all but eliminating that much-abhorred line at the counter that has greeted customers all these years, simultaneously turning off millennials everywhere, according to research.
The "justforyou experience" is already in more than 2,000 restaurants elsewhere around the globe as well as the aforementioned 500 U.S. pilot sites. It will now start at locations in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Chicago, according to McDonald's. The roll-out for all locations around the U.S. is less date-specific, since most locations are franchisee-owned and McDonald's said the start-up cost of the new system falls on individual franchisees.
And change is coming for you in drive-thru, too
Of course, most McDonald's customers never step foot inside the ubiquitous restaurants, but for them a change is also coming in the form of a new mobile ordering and payment system. In fact, the chain said on a new justforyou experience website today that it's just plain ol' "raising the bar on everything we do. ... offering new ways to order and pay, table service and premium menu choices. Here are some of the potentially game-changing moves underway under the golden archs:
- The "justforyou experience" and the audacious promise to "make ordering fun": This includes the previously detailed tabletop touchscreen self-order kiosks with features allowing for individual order customization galore.
- Higher end quality of food: This includes initiatives to make menu items more healthful, like "switching from margarine to butter" in that breakfast staple, the Egg McMuffin, as well as adding more trendier menu items, like guacamole, Sriracha mayo and even "premium" desserts.
- Mobile, electronic, kiosk-based, Apple or Android and every other way available to pay: Kiosk payment? Check. Mobile pay? Check. Hands-free pay options? Check ... maybe, after testing.
- Table-side delivery service: With self-ordering kiosks in the restaurant, the food now comes to you and that line at the counter goes away.
- New bolder, hipper look: Not many details on this one, but a promise that the chain is doing a decor refresh, featuring more up-to-date everything, as well as digital menu boards.
- The digitization of drive-thru: The chain is currently testing digital drive-thru menu boards that change with the time of day, day of week, and month of year, for that matter plus ... (drum roll please) ... double lane drive-thrus all around.
In fact, on the new justforyou experience website, focused on all these new initiatives, there's actually a virtual reality experience visitors can immerse themselves in as part of the all-American chain's customer introduction to the whole new McDonald's reality for a digital age.
Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.