The ‘McDonald’s of the Future’ leans fast-casual
Since last year’s announcement of a turnaround plan, McDonald’s changes and upgrades seem to have grown in scope with each subsequent move. The initiatives started with organizational restructuring and small tweaks. Then the chain made its breakfast menu available all day. Now the biggest change of all may be on its way, if McDonald’s follows the lead of one of its U.S. franchisees.
Earlier in the month, a concept being billed as the “McDonald’s of the Future” opened in St. Joseph, Mo. The Kansas City Star reported that the location features touchscreen kiosk ordering, customizable burgers with toppings available such a guacamole and maple bacon, a dessert bar and table service. The location also features a digitally-enhanced interactive play area with a three-story play place. For a limited time, the restaurant is offering unlimited French fries with orders.
With this new McDonald’s concept, the chain appears to be dipping its toe in the water of the rapidly growing fast-casual dining space.
McDonald’s has experimented with some elements found in the “McDonald’s of the Future” abroad in recent years. In 2014, McDonald’s in Australia launched touchscreen ordering and customizable gastropub-style burgers. In Canada, McDonald’s has introduced touchscreen ordering in some locations and, according to the Cape Breton Post, intends to roll out 1,000 touchscreen kiosks for self-ordering across the country by the end of 2017.
The company has also experimented with upscale burgers in a limited number of U.S. locations. According to BurgerBusiness, McDonald’s tested a line of “Signature Crafted” burgers with a selection of premium topping bundles in some locations in western Washington State. The chain has also courted audiences with regionalized products. In June, McDonald’s ran a “McBurger Showdown” contest in Texas soliciting ideas for a burger that would represent the Lone Star State, Delish reported. The winner, named a Lone Star Stack, is a double cheeseburger served on Texas Toast.
At the same time, the chain is making moves to cater to more health-conscious consumers. Reuters reported that McDonald’s will be replacing high-fructose corn syrup in their buns with real sugar this month, and has removed antibiotics from its chicken.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can McDonald’s succeed in reinventing itself as a fast-casual restaurant in the U.S.? Should McDonald’s keep its traditional fast food restaurant alongside a broader rollout of the fast-casual concept?