Personalized burgers? Table service? Is this McDonald’s?

Personalized burgers? Table service? Is this McDonald’s?

Mcddonalds_leadimage_execs Kynan Bridge, McDonald’s franchisee, left, and Victor Rocca, McDonald’s regional vice-president, Ontario. Photo credit to: Brody White

Walk into almost any Toronto McDonald’s these days and you’ll notice something different: large tablet-like screens ready to take your order, create your taste burgers that look they’re from an artisan sandwich shop and servers who will now deliver your meal right to your table.

Over the last few months over 100 restaurants in the GTA have undergone a major transformation, adding new technology, additional menu items and more staff to each location.

You can still get the same classic food as before, but now you will have enhanced choices, including the build-a-burger option that lets you create a sandwich from scratch, and a bakery menu with a selection of freshly baked pastries, croissants and danishes. This is not your grandparents’ McD’s.

Like most decades-old restaurants, McDonald’s is finding itself in an ever-competitive landscape. Consumer tastes and wants have also changed. Innovation is key.

“What guests expected in the ’60s and ’70s is different than what they’re expecting today,” says Victor Rocca, McDonald’s regional vice-president overseeing Ontario. “We want to evolve and to continue to meet the needs of our guests.”

These days, the overarching theme that customers are looking for is choice, says Rocca. That covers a number of things, but it comes down to customization, he says. While many will be happy to stick to more traditional items, others want the ability to add different ingredients, like guacamole or sriracha sauce, to their burgers.

That’s where the table service and touch-screen ordering fits in too. People don’t necessarily want to wait at a counter anymore. They want to order, sit down and have their meal brought to them.

Mcdonalds_ordering McDonald’s Canada has introduced self-order kiosks at its Toronto restaurants, as well as table service. Photo credit: Brody White

Most of these changes came from talking to the guests themselves, Rocca says. “We heard from them, that they want that personalized experience, but they also want the experience to be enjoyable and fun.”

For the change to happen, franchisees had to buy in as well. Together, McDonald’s Canada and its franchisees are investing $200,000 to $250,000 at each restaurant to add the do-it-yourself kiosks, the build-a-burger options, and the 15 or so additional staff required to serve tables, among other things.

Kynan Bridge, local franchisee of Toronto’s Yonge Street flagship restaurant, was enthusiastic about the changes from the beginning. He and his wife bought their first McDonald’s franchise six years ago — they now own five in Toronto — when the company was about to dramatically alter the way its restaurants looked. That was a big success, he says, so he’s seen how innovation can make a difference.

While it’s too early to say how successful this latest evolution will be, he’s confident it will be a home run. “Everything has to have a business case behind it, and this wasn’t an overnight process,” he says. “But we’re seeing a great initial response and feedback from our guests has been very positive.”

Over the next year, McDonald’s will be rolling out the new Restaurant Experience of the Future across Canada in 1,000 restaurants, adding 15,000 additional jobs. But just because you can now get served at your table doesn’t mean the golden arches you know and love are fading away.

“It’s a new offering as opposed to a new McDonald’s,” says Rocca. “There’s more interaction with our crew, there’s new technology and new build-a-burger options, but it’s still great tasting food and friendly service.”

mcdonalds_foodshot2O6A6044 Build-your-own burgers and sides debut at McDonald’s flagship Yonge Street restaurant.

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