- McDonald's is testing a new store concept in London that is designed for commuters or diners who are in a hurry, reports The Daily Mirror.
- "McDonald's To Go" offers a limited menu of freshly prepared takeaway items, including Big Macs and milkshakes.
- To place an order, customers use an ATM-sized touchscreen kiosk. The location's employees primarily consist of back-of-house kitchen staff.
The experimental McDonald's store format is responding to consumers' increasing demand for convenience and more purchasing options. Located on busy Fleet Street in London, the store targets workers in the area who don't have time for a leisurely lunch or who may need to pop out and grab dinner while working late. Without any seating in the restaurant and a reduced menu designed for takeaway, McDonald's is hoping to achieve unparalleled order fulfillment speed.
While this new format is focused exclusively on getting consumers in and out of the store as quickly as possible, its "Experience of the Future" redesign swings to the opposite end of the pendulum, focusing instead on enhancing the eating experience. McDonald's has invested $6 billion in redesign the majority of its U.S. stores by next year. The new format features digital order kiosks, updated menus that are easier to read, curbside pick-up parking spaces and larger display cases for McCafe items.
The chain has also added an order-and-pay app to over 22,000 restaurants and brought digital menu boards to more than 21,000. Kiosks are a familiar component of retail for many consumers, meaning that the technology is likely to be more accessible and less disruptive to customers' experiences.
Improving wait times has also been a key priority in McDonald's' drive-thru service after a 2018 study showed that it had the worst drive-thru times among the top 10 QSR chains. The retailer purchased technology company developer Dynamic Yield earlier this year, enticed by the startup's personalization and decision logic and its potential applications in drive-thru menus. McDonald's is also developing menus that will change based on key variables that influence purchasing decisions like the weather, the time of day, current traffic and current popularity of menu items. It piloted the technology in several stores last year, and plans to roll it out to over 14,000 U.S. locations.
It's also testing AI voice and facial recognition technology as part of its attempt to digitize the drive-thru experience. In general, artificial intelligence in the drive-thru space is developing rapidly, including platforms that can scan license plates to recognize customers and process payments automatically.
A few other QSRs are dabbling in streamlined store formats that are heavy on convenience and speed. Starbucks recently rolled out an express format in China to compete with heavy-hitter Luckin Coffee. It is aimed at fulfilling pickup and delivery orders, including a coffee concierge and a secure system where customers can pick up their orders from an in-wall system. Pizza Hut is also testing self-service pickup cubbies that allow diners to order and pay ahead and pick up their pizza from a secure cubby without having to interact with a store employee.