McDonald's

Burgers By Design

McDonald’s, White Castle test ordering kiosks that allow for burger customization.

New touch screen ordering kiosks find home at fast food restaurants.
Last month, White Castle debuted a new touch-screen ordering system at a Columbus, Ohio, unit.

Recent technology enhancements by White Castle and McDonald’s show that even traditional quick-service burger chains are considering letting patrons customize their orders.

Last month, White Castle added two touch-screen ordering kiosks at a renovated restaurant in its hometown of Columbus, Ohio. It is the only restaurant in the family-owned, 406-unit chain to feature the kiosks, which are part of a pilot project. The large screens allow customers to order their burgers exactly as they like them in the privacy of the kiosk area, says White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson.

What’s Going On at McDonald’s?

The last decade in quick service was a transformative one. Fast-casual restaurants moved from novel ideas in urban markets to competitive powerhouses with seemingly no ceiling. Health and nutrition became critical filters through which brands vetted their new menu items. And the Great Recession reset growth strategies, with limited-service players shifting their focus to more efficient, streamlined, and calculated expansion.

2013: A Year In Review

Nine stories that shook up the limited-service industry in the last year.

Despite a year filled with turmoil in Washington, the limited-service restaurant industry showed moderate growth and promise in 2013, thanks in part to creative new ideas and products, plus another good gain from fast-casual units.

With issues such as sequestration, a payroll tax increase, the government shutdown, and the Affordable Care Act hanging over the industry, it’s perhaps not surprising that gains have only been nominal, despite employment increases and an improving economy.

Burgers From Your Palm

Burger concepts are competing more in the online and mobile-ordering space.

Burger quick service chains like Jack's rolling out mobile ordering platforms.
Burger chain Jack's rolled out a new online ordering platform designed to help customers' tailgating experience.

Today’s restaurant consumers are increasingly tech savvy and interactive, and much of the quick-service industry has catered to their habits and preferences with the launch of online or mobile ordering tools.

Until recently, that did not include burger concepts, which have struggled to integrate online ordering into established cooking systems. Now, however, more burger joints are figuring out how to incorporate online ordering and are rolling out platforms to improve the overall customer experience.

Wrapped Up

The winners of the 2013 QSR/FPI Foodservice Packaging Awards.

With everything from marketing and branding to menu development and promotions capturing the attention of quick-service brands and operators, it often seems like packaging doesn’t get its due. But as consumers become more sophisticated and discerning about where they spend their time and money, brands are discovering that packaging has the potential to be the differentiator that captures share of stomach.

The Drive-Thru Performance Study

It used to be that speed of service was the most important part of the drive thru. But times have changed.

Fast food drive thrus are slowing down as consumers demand premium menus.
Chick-fil-A averages a whopping 6.09 cars in its drive thru at any given time. chick-fil-a / Stanley Leary

Since the advent of the modern quick-service drive thru—some would say in the early 1970s, though the idea of a pick-up window has been around for much longer—operators have tinkered with the nuts and bolts to create a drive thru that is as fast, efficient, and pleasant as possible. Innovations throughout the years, from wireless headsets and order-confirmation boards to dual lanes and pre-sell signage, have created a better drive thru capable of handling the 60–70 percent of business that now loops the exterior of most quick-service restaurants.

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