How Technology Transformed the Guest Experience at McDonald’s
McDonald’s is undoubtedly the world’s leading quick-service restaurant brand. It’s a restaurant that has achieved great heights by not simply standing still and responding to changing consumer needs. And in the field of technology, it is certainly leading the way.
From the My McD’s app and Self-Order Kiosks, to allowing customers to enjoy their McDonald’s favourites at home with McDelivery and its innovative POS system, over the last five years, the global brand has been busy transforming the customer experience in more ways than one.
Recently I spoke with VP and Chief Technology Officer at McDonald’s in Canada, Lara Skripitsky on the sidelines of Elevate Tech Fest in Toronto. Making it easier with customers to connect with the quick-service restaurant has been a priority for her and her team and has involved a multi-level approach. According to Lara:
“McDonald’s is committed to bringing a better, modern restaurant experience to its guests. Technology is ultimately at the forefront of that commitment because it is allowing the guests to choose how they interact with McDonald’s, when they interact with McDonald’s, and where they interact with McDonald’s.”
Convenience and affordability are key drivers in delivering high-quality food on demand today and the digital evolution of McDonald’s operational model is centred around this and should be an inspiration to businesses of all sizes.
The Impact of Technology on Business
Bringing in large technological changes for a major chain like McDonald’s, of course, doesn’t come cheap. That cost, however, is offset by the benefits.
For instance, customers can now order using the app and have their Big Mac delivered to their door. The self-ordering kiosks allow people to browse the menu and make their choice without the pressure of standing in a queue. The tech presents a lot of opportunities to grow and prosper, something that is vital for the thousands of franchises around the world.
It’s not all technology that is driving better convenience for customers at McDonald’s today in Canada, however. According to Lara, this is one area where the personal, human experience meets neatly with the technological choices, especially when it comes to using the kiosks:
To provide an unmatched guest experience, McDonald’s locations have Guest Experience Leaders who take care of our guests to help them navigate our Self Order Kiosks because not everybody is ready to stand in front of a screen and order. They greet the guests at the door and hold their hand through the ordering process so it’s not so scary.” .”
Because guests often feel less pressured using the kiosks, they are also likely to spend extra because they browse the menu in a more leisurely manner.
The Challenges of Installing New Tech for Restaurants
A lot of work has gone into the new technological provision for the McDonald’s chain. That includes understanding what options were available and, just as importantly, how they were going to work for customers. Making the right choices is vital.
Part of the challenge was building partnerships that could work for McDonald’s. For McDelivery, that meant working with companies such as Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes. Much of the technology McDonald’s want to access was already there which meant there didn’t need to be such a huge investment in building software and solutions inhouse.
My McD’s App and Transformational Data
One of the things that McDonald’s has struggled with in the past, as many restaurants have, is how to leverage collected data. Up until its move to bigger technology, the data was largely transactional in form. They knew what people were buying but they didn’t know an awful lot more about the people who were engaging with the company.
The My McD’s App has helped offer a more personalized and tailored experience.
What Technology Can Do For Smaller Restaurants
You don’t have to be a global leader in the hospitality industry to start benefiting from technology. For smaller businesses that are thinking of utilizing this kind of approach, Lara believes it’s essential to have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve:
“Really, you have to figure out what your objectives are. If it’s convenience, if it’s speed, if it’s personalization, if it’s customization. Determine what your goals are and then look at how you build the infrastructure around your data to support that.”
Another key factor for small businesses is to focus on mobile-first. We now use our smartphone to pick and choose where to eat, where to see a film, what videos to watch and how we shop. Why? Because it’s so convenient. Businesses that have a mobile-first approach are more likely to connect with potential customers and build a following.
CRM is also important, whether you’re a small business or a large corporation. According to Lara:
“We’re all playing in the world of CRM, brand loyalty and leveraging data to drive customized experiences. Therefore, it is key to knowing who your customers are through the power of technology, and then creating an experience that surprises and delights them.”
It may not be simple but finding the right approach and getting the best team in place is essential. It’s also about forming partnerships. McDonald’s has recently acquired Dynamic Yield which is a leader in personalization and decisions logic, using real-time machine learning especially with regards to POS. As Lara explains, McDonald’s tested this technology in several U.S. restaurants in 2018. Upon closing of the acquisition, McDonald’s will begin to roll this technology out in the Drive-Thru at restaurants in the United States in 2019 and then expand the use to other top international markets.:
“We’re using this technology to provide the most personalized experience for the customer. It’ll show suggestions for food on our menu depending on the time of day, weather and items that are trending. Once you order, within literally milliseconds, it will also suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order.”.”.
Once this is successful the plan is to move on and implement it into the app. The other important acquisition is Apprente In McDonald’s restaurants, this technology is expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the Drive-Thru with future potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks.
For McDonald’s, the use of new technology has become a guiding force for their delivery. Over the last five years, transformational changes have made ordering easier for customers and given the company the chance to leverage data to provide a customized personal experience that keeps people coming back for more.
For smaller businesses too, there are opportunities to use technology, if on a smaller scale. Understanding what benefits can be obtained and understanding your objectives, however, are vital.