USA: Will table service be a difference-maker for McDonald’s?
McDonald’s last week announced plans to roll out table service to all of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants.
After customers place their orders at a touch-screen kiosk and pick up a digital location device, orders will be delivered to their tables. Orders can still be made from the counter or picked up at the counter after using the kiosk.
McDonald’s has faced weak traffic for several years amid the popularity of fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread and Chipotle. With 60 to 70 percent of sales coming from its drive-through lanes, the move aims to improve the in-restaurant experience.
One challenge table service addresses is slower food delivery to customers caused by having more items on the menu. The wait time is expected to feel shorter while sitting at a table than standing by the counter.
The self-serve stations make it easier to customize an order. McDonald’s has also found customers tend to order more food when they don’t feel pressured to order at the counter. Interactions with employees are also expected to increase.
“Typically, the majority of our crew is behind the counter, and that counter literally has been a barrier between our crew and the customer,” Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, said at a media event last Thursday at a renovated store in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.
Test runs at more than 500 restaurants in Southern California, New York and Florida delivered an increase in traffic, a mid-single-digit percentage gain in sales, a lift in the average check by $1 and higher customer satisfaction scores. McD’s will launch kiosks and table service in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. in 2017 and the service will eventually roll out nationwide.
The service has been particularly popular with groups and families, although McDonald’s expects all customers will use the screens as they become common.
Adding an extra table delivery element might frustrate efforts to keep stores clean. Core fast-food customers may also feel alienated, although McDonald’s officials seemed to recognize this risk. Said Mr. Easterbrook at the press event, “This is not being a different McDonald’s, but a better McDonald’s.”
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