Will mobile ordering change McDonald’s model?


I watched ‘The Founder’ this weekend about Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers. It’s a great story about the intersection of perfection and ambition. If you like business, Michael Keaton, and good storytelling then it’s a must watch. The McDonald brothers revolutionized the process of having food ready when customers ordered. Their proprietary process minimized wait time, changed the customer’s perception and created the Fast Food category.

As fantastic as not waiting for food is, the fast food revolution did little for customization. Burger King tried to expose this with their ‘Have It Your Way’ advertising slogan that started in the 70’s. That slogan and a variation of that slogan exists today. Burger King tried to expose McDonald’s inability to customize their offering.   Anyone that has tried to customize a menu item at a McDonald’s register has felt the pain of this process as it isn’t natural to their core service. Sort of like ordering an ERP system.

McDonald’s is implementing their mobile ordering solution as part of their digital offering this year with a select number of restaurants and a limited menu.  The jump to mobile feels natural for any fast food or fast casual restaurant. The expectation of on-demand ordering and pick-up or delivery is becoming a standard for customers.  Those who don’t have their own infrastructure can use other services like UberEats to enable their their mobile offering and delivery. Giving customers the ability to order ahead and pick up in the drive-thru or restaurant or have it delivered is paramount for convenience and relevance with other leaders like Chipotle, Starbucks, and Panera.

The real question for McDonald’s is: does a digital offering like mobile allow them to adjust their current business model to provide more customization with higher quality products?  

McDonald’s knows that people are making more educated choices for fresher, high quality food products. The market has shifted and they are not only competing with other fast food choices but fast casual. By naturally resetting the expectation of how quickly food can be prepared through a mobile offering, does this allow them to introduce fresher, higher quality products with more customized options at a higher price point? Can they start to steal market share back from the fast casual world?  Starbucks and Panera always allow 5 to 10 minutes to prepare your order. If you are ordering from your kid’s soccer match or before you leave work, do you really care if your hamburger isn’t ready the minute you ordered? When’s the last time you heard someone complain about Starbucks or Panera being slow? Crowded yes but not slow.

As McDonald’s continues to evolve into the digital age, how will their business change? Does having a digital offering like mobile, allow them to reset expectations with customers for the better? Or do they continue to offer the same product with a new technology?

How are you evaluating the changes digital will bring to your business? If you are not considering it, you need to be. There are plenty of industries that haven’t begun to invest in the digital and mobile space. If you don’t, someone else will and they will change the rules on how your business operates.

About The Author

Andy Frank is our Founder and CEO. Since founding UDig, he has had the opportunity to build a business fueled by finding clients the right solutions to their technology problems.