McDonald's wants to makes its fast-food outlets feel more like restaurants, with plans to eventually expand table service across its U.S. locations.
The world's biggest burger chain says it has been testing the service at about 500 of its more than 14,000 domestic stores. Customers in those stores order at the counter or at kiosks and sit down and wait for an employee bring out their food, a change that McDonald's says improves customer satisfaction.
McDonald's says it will expand the offering in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., early next year. Bringing the change to all its stores could take years, as it would require franchisees to invest in remodeling and more training for employees.
The push to offer table service like some fast-casual chains do comes as McDonald's tries to stage a comeback after losing customers in recent years, with executives conceding they failed to keep up with changing tastes. Despite a string of announcements intended to drum up excitement — including the introduction of an all-day breakfast menu — customer visits in the U.S. have not increased, the company said.
CEO Steve Easterbrook said going to McDonald's is supposed to be fun, but "the initial stages of it can be quite stressful." He noted that customers are becoming more demanding, and the company is working on making visits to its restaurants more convenient. Next year, the company also plans to introduce a mobile order and pay option.
Even though McDonald's Corp. gets a majority of its sales at the drive-thru in the U.S., the company hopes having table service in restaurants helps improve people's perceptions about the overall experience. Table service and kiosks have already been introduced in other parts of the world, including in the United Kingdom.
The kiosks are also intended to give customers greater flexibility in customizing their orders with different buns and toppings for burgers, while reducing the chances for inaccurate orders. McDonald's has said it is working on reducing inaccurate orders, such as by asking employees to repeat orders back to customers at the drive-thru.
In stores that are remodeled to have the kiosks and table service, the company said it will also be more prominently featuring its McCafe drinks and baked goods. Those are intended to go after the growing snacking habit. Easterbrook said that the traditional three meals are making up less of the opportunity for growth.