- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
McDonald’s is making an expensive bet on digital self-service kiosks to drive sales.
The kiosks allow people to customize their burgers with premium buns and toppings as part of McDonald’s “Create Your Taste” platform.
The new technology is expected to cost franchisees between $120,000 and $160,000 to implement.
McDonald’s is hoping the pricey kiosks have huge payoffs, as more and more customers are increasingly seeking menu customization at restaurants.
But there’s one key problem: Customers can only order food from McDonald’s new kiosks by walking inside its restaurants, and McDonald’s reportedly gets as much as 70% of its sales from the drive-thru, QSR magazine reports.
“The reality is that it doesn’t apply to the 70 percent of customers that choose the drive thru,” Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchisee and president of Franchise Equity Group, told QSR. “At a cost of $100,000-$150,000 per restaurant to implement, it has a limited upside. I think this is more a stunt to appeal to Wall Street investors instead of being practical for the restaurant operator.”
McDonald’s has attempted to solve this problem by making some customizable options available to drive-thru customers through a new menu the chain is calling “TasteCrafted.”
But the menu is limited. It allows customers to pick only what kind of bun and premium sauce they want on their burger, whereas “Create Your Taste” offers several kinds of cheeses and toppings such as guacamole, grilled mushrooms, onions, bacon, and chili lime tortilla strips.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
McDonald’s is expanding “Create Your Taste” to thousands of restaurants in the US. But the company doesn’t expect the kiosks to be a silver bullet for reviving sales.
“Create Your Taste” is one of many steps the chain is taking to stop the bleeding from seven straight quarters of sales declines in the US. The company is also slimming down its menu and improving its burgers by making them bigger and toasting the buns longer, in addition to taking other measures.
“Create Your Taste” comes with a pretty hefty price tag, however, for a technology that will only be available to a fraction of McDonald’s customers.
Even those customers who do order inside restaurants may not necessarily use the kiosks, because the “Create Your Taste” burgers typically cost more and take longer to prepare.
Business Insider’s Hollis Johnson tested the program at a New York City McDonald’s and paid $10 for a burger with bacon, tomato, onions, cheddar cheese, guacamole, and two sauces, along with sides of fries and a drink. That’s about twice the cost of a Big Mac meal.
The specialty burgers typically take between 7 and 10 minutes to prepare, according to QSR. Johnson’s wait lasted 8 minutes.
At a “better-burger” restaurant like Shake Shack, a wait that long is expected. But at McDonald’s, that kind of wait might not make sense to customers.
“The danger is in moving away from what made McDonald’s successful in the first place: speed of service and affordability,” Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic, told QSR.
McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb has said the kiosks aren’t meant to replace cashiers. They are intended to enhance the customers’ experience by giving them one more way to control how they wish to experience and engage with McDonald’s, she says.
If enough people trade the drive-thru for in-store service, then McDonald’s customizable burgers could prove to be a success.
Johnson described the “Create Your Taste” burger that he tried as “absolutely superb” and far better than the traditional Big Mac.
If other customers have a similar experience, then the kiosks could help drive in-store traffic – especially at restaurants without drive-thru options like the one Johnson visited in New York City.