McDonald’s has joined a growing list of restaurant chains testing a small-format model designed specifically for on-the-go customers.
The test restaurant is located near Fort Worth, Texas, and includes a mobile-order-ahead lane for customers who want to skip the traditional drive-thru lane by placing their order through the mobile app and picking it up via a conveyor system. A company blog notes the app updates, conveyor and new kitchen format streamline operations and lead to a fast, seamless experience for customers and employees.
“The technology in this restaurant not only allows us to serve our customers in new, innovative ways, it gives our restaurant team the ability to concentrate more on order speed and accuracy, which makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone,” Franchisee Keith Vanecek said in a statement.
The restaurant also includes an in-restaurant pickup shelf, self-order kiosks that accept cash and credit, and a designated indoor area and parking spaces for delivery drivers and curbside order pickup. According to a company spokesperson, the nearly 3,200-square-foot model is 26% smaller than an average traditional U.S. restaurant.
McDonald’s said the model will be used to “test new ideas, learn valuable lessons and perfect other advancements that can benefit McDonald’s restaurants and the customer experience globally.” It comes as the company’s digital sales continue to grow, recently surpassing $2 billion. During the company’s Q3 earnings call in late October, CEO Chris Kempczinski said a record mix of transactions are coming through the mobile app. Driving much of those sales is the MyMcDonald’s Reward program launched last year and counting more than 25 members in the U.S. Additionally, delivery remains a robust channel for McDonald’s, despite a return to dine-in business. Kempczinski said Q3 was one of the company’s highest delivery sales quarters ever in the U.S.
“At McDonald’s, we’ve been setting the standard for drive-thrus for more than 45 years,” Max Carmona, McDonald’s senior director, global design & restaurant development, said in a statement. “As our customers' needs continue to change, we are committed to finding new ways to serve them faster and easier than ever before.”
Several brands have started testing or expanding formats that focus on to-go consumers as the pandemic accelerated digital ordering and off-premise consumption habits. Chili’s just launched its first delivery, takeout-only restaurant, for instance, while P.F. Chang’s, Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin’ and others have embraced similar models. Chipotle is aggressively growing its mobile-order-ahead Chipotlane model as well, noting the units generate up to 20% higher sales than traditional formats. Notably, a handful of chains have also started testing conveyor belts to deliver orders to cars at the drive-thru, including Burger King and Taco Bell.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]