McDonald’s scaled-up its delivery offer during the pandemic, with 15% of total customers now coming to the brand through the channel, said Jason Clark, senior vice president and chief operations officer at McDonald’s UK & Ireland.

Taking part in an exclusive Q&A as part of MCA’s Food to Go Conference earlier this week, Clark told attendees to the online event that the past 12-18 months have seen the delivery channel go from being “really important to an absolutely essential channel for us”.

Clark said the business had been in a strong position before lockdown, having already built up a strong network of sites offering delivery across the UK, since it entered the delivery market through Uber Eats in 2017 and had just started working with Just Eat as the UK entered lockdown in March last year.

He said that although the 12 months have been challenging, it has been fascinating to see how customers have responded and how people have become a lot more interested in delivery.

“It will be interesting to see what happens with consumer behaviour when all of our other channels are open and when we have got a lot more of the industry open,” he said. “At the moment we are seeing somewhere around 15% of overall customers coming from delivery and we would expect that to continue to grow.”

While breakfast is a very popular day part for McDonald’s in its restaurants and drive-thrus, Clark said that hasn’t translated through to delivery at the moment. “It is not necessarily our biggest day part, but it is a day part that is unique to McDonald’s,” he said. Clark added that while lunch and dinner – the more traditional day parts for QSR brands – dominated in delivery, breakfast was an occasion the fast-food giant wants to continue to build on. “We have great products that we think can travel well in delivery,” he added.

Commenting on the queues seen at its drive thrus when they reopened after the first lockdown, Clark said that while it was very rewarding, it was important not to overlook the decision it made to close all of its restaurants, describing it as “probably the biggest decision of our careers and of our time”.

“It was important that we took the time to make that decision and consider all of our franchisees and what that meant for our employees as well as our customers,” he added.

As McDonald’s gears up to reopen its dine-in areas, Clark said he anticipates there will be some changes in consumer behaviour. “Twelve months is a long time and I think it has created a lot of habits, not just in consumers but also in restaurants as well, and it changes the dynamics about how people look at different channels,” he said.

Clark also spoke about the development of its Click and Serve app, how the business has been investing in its restaurants and drive-thrus, and how technology has been improving the customer experience.

To view the full interview with Jason Clark, or to watch any of the sessions you missed, click here