McDonald’s is doubling down on its “McDonald’s of the Future” stores, which are outfitted with touch-screen kiosks that allow for more customization of orders and, (this is the bigger news) offer table service. Soon, all McDonald’s U.S. stores will fall in line with this model.
Crain’s reports that McDonald's today announced plans “to expand table service and self-serve ordering kiosks across all of its 14,200 U.S. restaurants, hoping the new format will help boost sales the way it did in overseas markets.” The chain has struggled in recent years due to decreasing revenues and traffic, which eventually led it to shutter hundreds of stores. But the advent of all-day breakfast proved a great success, albeit one that critics worried might not be sustainable.
Now, the burger chain is relying on a combination of tech and old-fashioned hospitality to (hopefully) sustain success. The Chicago-based company has already expanded its “McDonald’s of the Future” concept to 500 U.S. stores, reports Crain’s, and will now be adding the experiences to five additional markets: Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. In addition to kiosks, the high-tech stores also rely more on staff, who deliver food directly to the tables (but don’t take orders at the table, like at a traditional restaurant).
So, is McDonald’s moving away from fast food and toward fast-casual? It certainly seems that way, though it’s important to note that the chain’s food hasn’t necessarily changed.
Fast-casual concepts like Chipotle and Panera are largely defined by the price point per meal ($9-$13, compared to around $5 for fast food) as well as an emphasis on higher-quality ingredients. Though this could be part of a larger overhaul for the largest fast-food chain in the world, which has slowly been rolling out arguably higher-quality, antibiotic-free ingredients, and in some areas, even testing fresh beef.
The kiosks were initially offered as a new way for customers to interact with the chain, but also as a way to offer customization. Through select stores’ Create Your Taste menu, customers could personalize their orders by selecting a bun, a protein, and adding different toppings, like maple bacon, Dijon mustard, or grilled onions.
But Create Your Taste proved costly for both franchisees and for customers (one Chicago man even created a nearly $900 burger utilizing the kiosks). Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced it would be replacing Create Your Taste with a line of "Signature Crafted Recipes.”
The new line of Signature Crafted Recipes will offer fewer options: Customers can pick a protein (grilled or fried chicken or a burger patty) and a topping style: apple bacon dijon; sweet barbecue bacon; or pico guacamole.
On a recent earnings call with investors, CEO Steve Easterbrook noted that the chain would continue adding digital ordering kiosks to its stores, though. As Business Insider reports, franchisees invest roughly $125,000 per location to install the kiosks in their restaurants, an investment that Easterbrook says pays off. "Literally as soon [as a store is revamped], it sees a sales lift," he said on the earnings call.
• McDonald's to Add Table Service and Kiosks to All U.S. Restaurants [Crain’s]
• How McDonald's Hopes to Sustain Its All-Day Breakfast Success [E]
• The McDonald's of the Future Has Table Service and Touch-Screen Ordering [E]