As McDonald’s nears the completion of its Experience the Future store programme, the operator is increasingly looking for opportunities to boost the level of personalisation in its restaurants. Jason Clark, SVP, chief operations officer, McDonald’s UK & Ireland talks to MCA deputy editor Georgi Gyton about touchscreen kiosks, the opportunities for coffee, and the potential to expand its network of delivery partners.

As Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s UK & Ireland said in its full-year results for 2018, the business has “no intention of slowing down”, and would continue to invest in customer experience and its people. And that certainly seems to be the case.

The chain, which achieved 51 consecutive quarters of UK sales growth last year, is on target to complete its multi-million pound Experience the Future store refurbishment programme by mid-2019. The upgrade of all of its c1,370 restaurants has involved an overhaul of internal processes, design and technology, from the front to the back doors, at every one of its shops.

It has been a big undertaking for the business, but the customer response has been really positive in all stores that have been converted, “whether it be the different menu items we are able offer, our touch screens or the launch of our mobile app”, says Jason Clark, SVP, chief operations officer, McDonald’s UK & Ireland.

“When we are able to change things, like offering table service – which isn’t something we were able to do before, and use Bluetooth technology, it gives families or business people the chance to come in and experience the restaurant in a different way,” he says.

It is also looking to utilise the new technology it has in its stores to improve the customer journey through personalisation, with its touchscreen kiosks a particular focus.

“We are looking at how we can offer a higher level of personalisation,” he says. “Are we able to understand what you ordered when you were last in, or offer different options rather than the customer having to scroll through and search for things.”

Capitalising on the delivery market

The business has continued to scale up its delivery offering through UberEats, with the service now offered at around 700 sites. “The response from customers has been very positive and it has bought a level of convenience to our customers beyond the things we already have, such as drive-thrus and 24-hour opening,” he says.

While Clark says he doesn’t see McDonald’s rolling delivery out to all sites, he is keen to ensure they are offering it in the right locations. The business currently has an exclusive partnership with UberEats, but Clark hinted that he’d be open to exploring the use of other partners in the future. “We are working with UberEats at the moment, but I am personally keeping an eye on what happens with all the different players because there are some good options out there,” he says.

“Being able to offer customer choice has always been a strength of ours. If you are more liable to use UberEats or Deliveroo, for example, is something we have to be aware of as we make decisions going forwards,” adds Clarke.

He admitted that, anecdotally, there is inevitably going to be some impact on sales at their drive thrus, with the increasing popularity of delivery, but “not to any significant extent”.

“In London we now offer delivery across 60 restaurant on a 24-hour basis, which has been a good opportunity for us to understand the customer response to 24-hour delivery. Some people may choose to stay home and using delivery instead of our drive-thrus, but not to the point that it worries me that we can’t grow continue to grow both areas as well as our instore experience as well,” he explained.

Barista-made coffee

Another area McDonald’s is looking to capitalise on is the growing coffee market. It introduced the flat white to its range last year, and sold c13m cups of it during the course of 2018. It is now exploring barista coffee machines, what they could mean for McDonald’s customers and how it ensures they would complement the rest of the experience, he says.

The machines are being trialled in eight locations, from Mansfield and Northampton, to Kensington. “The coffee market is a big market, and we are one of the biggest players, but I think for us to continue to improve that experience and be able to offer more customisation, barista made coffee, for me, is one of those potential opportunities that could be great for customers,” says Clarke.

While a lot of its coffees are sold on their own, many are sold with food items, from sausage and egg McMuffins, to wraps and chicken nugget meals, and Clark believes that additional complementary products is one of the areas it could potentially build.

“Do I forsee a time when we could be offering additional baked good? Possibly, but it’s something I’d want to do at the right time, and to make sure we fully understand what parts need to come together. But if there is demand and we can offer that opportunity, then yes it’s something we’ll consider,” he says.