Monday, June 14, 2021

McDonald's Solutions Can Be found Testing Technology


The disequilibrium between restaurant customers want’s and needs and the ability of chain restaurants meet or exceed customers expectations for food quality, price, service, and discovery have been upended over the past 18 months according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  

Reducing the size of the menu items offered at fast food restaurants had driven up the speed of service via the drive-thru.  Which in turn has help drive top line sales and bottom-line profits for most all fast-food outlets.  However, consumers want back inside the restaurants, to sit, eat, talk or use the restrooms.  That will drive up operating cost, and many franchise operators are concerned.

McDonald’s is stepping-up to stand-out as an operator wanting to assist franchisees drive incremental sales and profits by testing automated drive-thru order-taking in 10 Chicago area stores.  To-date, the 10-unit pilot is about 85% accurate and can take about 80% of orders.

Kempczinski, president and CEO of McDonald’s, stated, “There is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S. with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather — I mean, on and on and on and on.”  

Kempczinski, continued, “Do I think in five years from now you're going to see a voice in the drive-thru?” “I do, but I don't think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so.” ….” the automated system is about 85% accurate and can take about four-fifths of all orders in tests.

Restaurant industry success is a four-step process according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®, Steven Johnson.  Those four steps are Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat. McDonald’s is willing to put in the time, talent, treasure to garner the right outcome and few can do it better.

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So, the automated voice order-taking drive-thru test leans on a technology acquisition McDonald’s made in September 2019, when it acquired Apprente, a company that specializes in voice-based conversational technology.

Kempczinski, went on to say, “There's still a lot of work, but I do feel confident that the acquisition that we did with Apprente, the work that we've done since then, we feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case,”…”Humans have to be trained to work alongside the machines.”

This was really interesting, Kempczinski, stated “One of the things that we've learned in our 10 restaurants that we've done it is: How do you train a crew to actually not want to jump in as soon as they hear a question or a pause…. “We've had to do a little bit of training of ‘just keep your hands off the steering wheel, let the computer do its work.’”

While technology is frustrating for many of a certain age, Gen Z and Millennials are digital natives, yet developing a comfort level with the human staff members was important, Kempczinski noted. “We weren't getting enough of the orders to be actually able to be processed through the voice recognition technology,” Kempczinski explained, “because as soon as there was a question or a hiccup, the crew had a tendency to just want to jump in. And it took a little bit of time to actually learn to trust the technology.”

The fact is technology acquisitions can accelerate some aspects of technology for the foodservice company they are complicated.  Consumers are dynamic not static and technology solutions today must be ‘built to change’, evolve country to country, state to state, person to person. The universal commonality of technology is wonderful but practical implementation is something else according to Johnson.  

Consumers are dynamic not static, evolving customers wants and needs will drive change and greater demand for technology. Remember Foodservice Solutions® four steps Build or Buy, Measure, Learn, and Repeat.  How many customers can get through your drive-thru from Noon until 1PM?

Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”.  Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company edify your brand with relevance.  Call 253-759-7869 for more information. 

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