There’s been precious little innovation around the fast food industry’s service formula for some time. The onus has traditionally been very much on the customer to wait patiently in line at the point of sale, order their meal from a static menu and then find a free table.
This format is increasingly being challenged with industry giants such as McDonald’s reimagining what fast, frictionless and convenient dining will look like in 2020 and beyond.
Self-service kiosks are increasingly becoming a feature in UK fast food restaurants with the undoubted benefits they bring including improved speed of service, greater employee productivity and the ability to streamline kitchen operations.
Table service app functionality
Now, however, fast food giant McDonald’s is blazing a trail by including table service functionality in its app and self-service kiosks. The benefits for the customer are obvious; guests avoid queuing at the point of sale and don’t have to juggle large orders during their hunt for a table. They can even place their order before they arrive, as long as they are within 100 metres of a restaurant – for example in a shop nearby or in the carpark.
To enjoy table service at McDonalds, customers need to download the free McDonald’s app, select their meal choices and select “eat in” and “table service” as their collection method before inputting their table number. The last piece of the jigsaw is to pay, also using their smartphone. They can then sit back and wait for their meal to arrive.
Other customer benefits of the app include the ability to customise orders, remember favourites, find the nearest branch and enjoy promotions.
Table service functionality is yet another driver to encourage customers to download a hospitality firm’s app, ushering in a new and profitable digital relationship between both parties.
Apps are a great way to capture customer behaviour data so that restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes can build up a picture of when and where a customer dines with them and also the kinds of items they like to purchase.
This data enables an organisation to personalise the products, promotions and services it offers, building a more profitable relationship with each and every customer.
McDonalds is well aware of the power of personalisation and is already developing it into a key feature of its ordering experience. It recently snapped up the Israeli artificial intelligence (AI)company Dynamic Yield so that it can use machine learning and predictive algorithms to vary digital menus according to a string of variables such as the time of day, weather, current restaurant footfall and trending menu items. The system can also use individual customers’ past buying behaviour to suggest food and drink options and it can also recommend additional items based on what the customer has already chosen.
Leveraging artificial intelligence
And McDonald’s plans for AI don’t end there. It recently bought the Californian AI start-up Apprente with analysts suggesting the fast food giant initially has plans to introduce voice recognition to its Drive-Thru restaurants. Statements made by McDonalds also suggest that voice recognition could play a key part in ordering meals by smartphone and kiosk. Apprente was founded in 2017, and has been building speech-powered customer-service chatbots. Now, the team will be rebranded as McD Tech Labs, and will inject their technology into McDonald’s Drive Thru service.
For fast food restaurant visitors, the definition of value includes convenience. It is a smart choice for McDonald’s to use technology that ensures fast food delivers on its promise of being convenient and friction free. In this way McDonald’s is able to differentiate itself from its competitors and offer something new that caters to evolving consumer demands, which commonly revolve around personalisation, convenience and a streamlined purchase journey.
In the race to reimagine customer service in the hospitality sector, during 2020 and beyond, only those companies with powerful digital networks will be able leverage transformative technology such as personalisation and artificial intelligence. This will arguably have the greatest impact in the fast-food sector where consumers will expect increasingly customer-centric and friction free experiences.
Personalisation, driven by modern digital networks, presents huge opportunities for both hospitality and retail firms. For more information, download our recent report, entitled Time To Get Personal. You can also learn about the digital pain points that ruin customer experience here.