The summer saw McDonald’s officially opening its 500th Experience of the Future UK restaurant as the fast food giant continues to develop the 1,250 sites it currently has across the country at a relentless pace.
“We’re currently in the middle of a complete overhaul of our restaurant estate,” explains Henry Trickey, Senior Vice President, Development. “The Experience of the Future programme is much more than just a refurbishment exercise and stems from the unprecedented growth that we’ve seen over the last ten years, with like-for-like sales having doubled in that time period. With such significantly increased numbers of customers coming through our doors (and through our Drive Thru lanes) one of the biggest issues we’ve had to deal with is restaurant capacity and how we can increase the service and efficiency of our restaurants when serving more customers than ever.
“Having the necessary capacity is a massive part of ensuring our restaurants are able to trade in the future so we’ve been focusing on several improvements in this area. For example, the majority of our drive thrus now have two lanes with two order points to provide a much quicker rate of service for our customers. We’re also extending the seating capacity of our restaurants where we can, and increasing the back of house operations including freezers, chillers, kitchens and car parking areas to take into account the massive growth that we have seen within the business and to provide the additional capacity that is required today.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in these areas and on the back of that the next thing we want to provide is a broader menu for our customers. A key part of the programme involves changing the design of our kitchens so that we’re able to cook and prepare the food in a different way. As a result, meals are now prepared freshly for our customers when they order and from the onset, this has been an integral part of Experience of the Future. We’re therefore redesigning all our kitchens and increasing the level of equipment we have within them, so we can provide a more extensive menu to our customers and also further enhance the quality of our product.”
“Having the necessary capacity is a massive part of ensuring our restaurants are able to trade in the future so we’ve been focusing on several improvements in this area. For example, the majority of our drive thrus now have two lanes with two order points to provide a much quicker rate of service for our customers. We’re also extending the seating capacity of our restaurants where we can, and increasing the back of house operations including freezers, chillers, kitchens and car parking areas to take into account the massive growth that we have seen within the business and to provide the additional capacity that is required today.”
Henry Trickey, Senior Vice President, Development
With the improvements that have already been made to its kitchens, McDonalds has been keen to push forward with innovative burger products, which is what it is best known for. “One of the key products that we’re now able to provide as a consequence of our improved kitchen facilities is our signature beef burger collection, which is a brand new product that we currently have in 60 restaurants. However, due to popularity we’re in the process of rolling it out to another 50 over the next few months with the view of it eventually being available nationwide,” says Mr Trickey. “This is a premium quality burger featuring the thickest beef patty ever sold at McDonald’s that’s 100 per cent British and Irish beef, served in a freshly toasted brioche bun with salad and a variety of sauces. We have a classic, a barbeque and a spicy variant, all of which are of the same quality as you would receive in a gourmet burger bar, but obviously at a fraction of the price. This is what our customers keep telling us they want, so we’ve listened to them.
“Another key focus area we’ve been looking at is how we serve our customers. Traditionally this has been either at the front counter within our restaurants, or in the drive thru lane. In contrast, we’re now rolling out self-order kiosks where we provide customers with the opportunity to order their meal items on a touch screen and pay for it with a contactless debit card or credit card. They then have the option of either collecting their food at the collection zone or alternatively having the food brought to their table. This is a radical change and not only improves the level of service for our customers, but also frees up front counter space for families with buggies etc. Being able to go straight to a table and have food brought to them is a much less stressful experience for our customers. Another technological innovation we’re exploring is mobile ordering and we’re currently testing this in a few restaurants. Customers can order food through the app on their mobile, pay for it, and have it brought to their table.”
Even given its leading position within the fast food sector, it is clear that far from being complacent McDonald’s has instead continued to blaze a trail through the market by implementing the latest technology in the best way it possibly can.
“We are still definitely leading the way within the restaurant industry in terms of embracing technology and the development of the kiosk concept is just another part of that process,” adds Mr Trickey. “Having worked so hard to source the right technology and get the right solutions, we’ve definitely got the foundations in place to roll out these concepts across our entire estate, particularly as customers become more confident about using the technology. Excluding our drive thru business, on average kiosk usage currently represents around 30 per cent of our sales within our restaurant estate, which is a figure that is continuing to grow and will increase further as more Experience of the Future restaurants are opened. Rates of adoption are rising all the time because of the ease of usage. We’ve been very proactive from a training perspective so our staff are well immersed in the technology and can assist customers if they need any help. This has been tremendously beneficial from a take up point of view.”
Having broken through the 500-resturant barrier, McDonald’s is keen to keep the momentum going moving forward. “We’ve been able to make great progress due to the level of planning that we’ve put in place and the high level of engagement we’ve had with our franchisees, which has been absolutely vital as they make up 70 per cent of our UK restaurants,” concludes Mr Trickey. “We’ve also been working very closely with all the other involved parties, such as our general contractor team and internal project management team, as well as the external consultants, designers, quantity surveyors and IT installers, etc. As you can imagine a huge amount of work has been involved, but we’re now reaping the benefits of that early planning.”
“By the end of this year over half of our estate will have been converted, so we’re running at the rate of one conversion a day. Next year we will have carried out a similar amount (around 350) and we are due to complete the programme by the end of 2018. We’re certainly not being complacent but with the project delivery systems that we have in place, coupled with the strong working relationships we have established with our partners, we have every confidence that we will remain on track moving forward.”