Foodservice Equipment Reports

McDonald’s Sees Future In Tableside Service

McDonald’s is trying on the fast-casual model. The chain announced last week that it is expanding its digital ordering stations and table service to all of its 14,000 American restaurants.

“Typically, the majority of our crew is behind the counter, and that counter literally has been a barrier between our crew and the customer,” says McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. The new system would not reduce costs, he adds. “We’re not cutting crew; we’re redeploying them.”

Customers will still be able to order food at the counter, but the shift addresses one of the biggest problems the company’s restaurants have faced in recent years: slower food delivery to customers, caused by more items on the menu. The chain hopes that customers will be more willing to wait if they are sitting at a table instead of waiting at a counter.

McDonald’s has tested the order system, what it calls its “just-for-you experience,” in 500 revamped outlets in New York, Florida and Southern California and is now introducing them in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Chicago. The new program is in some 2,600 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide; roughly one-quarter of transactions are done on in-store screens in the chain’s Australian, Canadian and British locations.

While the chain says the self-serve stations make it easier to customize an order, about 60% to 70% of sales come from its drive-thru lanes. It plans to roll out a mobile order-and-pay system that would also change the way customers get their orders, including customers ordering from their cars.

The changes could be slow to implement as franchisees will be responsible for the equipment and installation. Cost estimates vary by store sales volume, but can run from about $28,000 to close to $60,000.

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