Big things are happening under the golden arches and it started with McCafÃ© and quality coffee to challenge Tim Hortons. I first experienced the change a few weeks ago when I encountered a large touch-screen kiosk to place my order. And, standing beside it was a real live attendant to assist this old boomer as I navigated the new technology. Not easily fooled, I quickly concluded this was just another version of printing my own boarding pass at the airportâ€”get the customer to do the work by reducing the personal service.
McDonald’s has now upped the ante and totally blew me away when I visited a few days ago and had a customer experience unlike anything they’ve offered in the past forty years. They now have a Create Your Taste build-your-own Angus burger option to rival the popularity of customization offered at Harvey’s and Five Guys. Once the attendant showed me how to scroll the screen up and down (duh!), I was offered a choice of different buns, cheeses and zillions of condiments including grainy mustard and caramelized onions. While I was delighted to finally be able to get a slice of real tomato on my burger, they still don’t offer relish. Can’t figure that out since they offer chipolte, garlic aioli and other exotic selections, but no plain old relish which as any traditionalist knows is an essential ingredient in a burger. Sliced pickles just aren’t the same.
But the fun was just starting. The kiosk attendant helped me pay and handed me an electronic number pad (similar to those at Panera Bread) and asked me to take a seat at a table. A few minutes later, a handsome young (albeit hair-netted) waiter delivered my order to my table, presented like something from a French bistro. My burger was resting on a faux wooden bread board, alongside a mini deep fryer basket lined with a square of crisp paper containing my hot fries. Then, Mr. handsome young waiter went over to the soda machine, dispensed my Diet Coke for me (checking beforehand whether or not I wanted ice), and asking when he returned if there was anything else he could do for me. Unfortunately, as soon as he walked away, in my excitement my elbow accidentally tipped the handle of the fryer basket launching my fries at nearby tables with amazing speed. That kind of thing tends to happen whenever I encounter a cute guy offering himself to be of service to me.
McDonald’s have hired an additional three thousand staff to support this new level of service. Traditional Big Mac combos can still be ordered at the counter for less cost, but, damn, I liked being treated like a somebody and getting my burger exactly the way I like it, except for the relish problem of course. And to promote the new service, my fries and drink were free. Bonus.
I expect this new level of service delivery originates with John Betts, McDonald’s new C.E.O. I must write him a “Dear John” letter thanking him for thinking of the customer for a change. The experience, the service and the quality of the food exceeded expectations, as we say in the biz. If you haven’t been there lately, visit your local McDonald’s and try this boomer’s version of a happy meal. And, I’m confident I’ll soon be able to navigate the new kiosk without help. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for getting a boarding pass at the airport.
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