McDonald’s Testing New Restaurant Format for On-the-Go Customers

    The pilot location includes an order-ahead lane.

    Fast Food | December 1, 2022 | Danny Klein
    McDonald's exterior of restaurant building.
    McDonald's of North Texas
    McDonald's on-the-go build is considerably smaller than traditional units.

    In McDonald’s top six markets globally, digital has rocketed to more than a third of system-wide sales, fueled by north of 43 million active app customers. The chain’s U.S. digital business boasted more than 25 million in Q3 driven through MyMcDonald’s Rewards. In the first quarter stateside, digital bumped 60 percent, year-over-year, as the chain generated over $2 billion across a three-month stretch. McDonald’s is also on the verge of integrating a feature where guests can earn loyalty points and order and pay for delivery within the app—another expected boost on the heels of what CEO Chris Kempczinski called “one of our highest delivery sales quarters ever in the U.S.”

    It’s clear convenience is something McDonald’s customers are seeking and willing to target (and pay for).

    And now, the digital rush is flowing into store design. McDonald’s on Thursday opened a new small-format test location in Fort Worth, Texas, designed for on-the-go guests. The location features an order-ahead lane, or a separate drive-thru lane where customers receive their orders via a food and beverage conveyor. McDonald’s said the option is ideal for users who place their order ahead of arrival through the app. They can then skip the traditional drive-thru line and receive food quickly and conveniently.

    It’s not dissimilar from the pickup lanes, or “pull throughs” popping up across the industry, namely with Chipotle’s “Chipotlanes,” of which there are now 500 nationwide. Brands like sweetgreen, Noodles & Company, McAlister’s Deli, and others are adding pickup features for order-ahead users who don’t need to stop at a speaker box. (READ MORE: How the Pickup Window has Changed the Drive-Thru Game).

    “At McDonald’s, we’ve been setting the standard for Drive Thrus for more than 45 years,” Max Carmona, senior director, global design and restaurant development at McDonald’s, said in a statement. “As our customers' needs continue to change, we are committed to finding new ways to serve them faster and easier than ever before.”

    McDonald's of North Texas
    McDonald's of North Texas
    McDonald's of North Texas
    McDonald's of North Texas
    McDonald's of North Texas

    The order-ahead lane deploys technology McDonald’s said allows employees to begin preparing customers’ orders when they’re near the restaurant. The location’s app updates, food and beverage conveyor, and new kitchen format, all work to streamline operations, the brand said. “The technology in this restaurant not only allows us to serve our customers in new, innovative ways, it gives our restaurant team the ability to concentrate more on order speed and accuracy, which makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone,” Keith Vanecek, the franchisee operating the test restaurant, added in a statement.

    Inside, the location is “considerably smaller” than traditional U.S. restaurants. McDonald’s said the reason behind the change was the features, inside and outside, are geared toward diners who plan to bring the food home or eat in transit. So the restaurant includes a delivery pickup room for couriers to retriever orders. There are also kiosks, which accept cash and credit, for consumers to place their orders to go, as well as a pickup shelf. Outside, McDonald’s built several parking spaces dedicated to curbside order pickup alongside designated spots for delivery drivers.

    McDonald’s said the model remains a one-of-kind build, for now. But tests will continue on future evolutions. “We're always innovating to improve our customer experience, no matter how they want to order or receive their food. “I am immensely proud to have this new restaurant concept serving our customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex,” Vanecek said.

    McDonald’s reported a 6.1 percent rise in same-store sales in Q3—15.7 percent on a two-year basis. It marked the concept’s ninth straight quarter of positive growth and 22nd out of the past 23. Visits to McDonald’s increased by 8.8 percent in July, 4.5 percent in August, and 6.2 percent in September, compared to 0.6 percent, negative 1.8 percent, and 0.8 percent in the overall quick-service segment, according to Placer.ai.

    McDonald’s finished Q3 with 13,435 U.S. restaurants (12,775 franchises and 660 corporate), down 13 units year-over-year. Internationally there are 26,545 locations. In total, the chain has 39,980 outlets globally.

    Revenue decreased from $6.2 billion to $5.9 billion in the third quarter because of all major currencies weakening against the U.S. dollar. For the same reasons, operating income decreased 7 percent year-over-year to $2.76 billion, and net income slid 8 percent to $1.98 billion.