Food outlets turn to technology to quicken service

Paul Pomroy, right, of McDonald's with franchise owner Andy Gibson. Picture: John Devlin
Paul Pomroy, right, of McDonald's with franchise owner Andy Gibson. Picture: John Devlin
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ON HIS lunch break from the nearby brain injury unit at Graham Anderson House, Emeka hovers in front of the self-order kiosk at McDonald’s on Glasgow’s Springburn Road. A few feet away, a table with built-in tablet PCs quickly fills with schoolchildren munching away on fries.

Emeka completes his order with help from a crew member who has been stationed out front specifically for that purpose. The kiosks at this outlet, owned by franchisee Andy Gibson, have only been up and running for the past fortnight, and Emeka declares: “That is very good. I love it.”

It may be a first for Emeka, but technology is gaining an increasingly visible role in the restaurant industry. From the early days of online reviews to crowd-sourced ranking systems, IT is now moving into the dining room.

A survey published last week by small business lending specialist Boost Capital found that 18 per cent of Scots cited contactless payment as an important consideration when choosing a fast food outlet.

McDonald’s has so far rolled out its “Experience of the Future” across 220 of its 1,250 UK restaurants. Gibson’s outlet on Springburn Road is only the ninth of 95 Scottish establishments to get the electronic kiosk and tablet treatment.

Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said it was all about “giving customers what they want as their needs change”, with those who are pressed for time getting their meal as quickly as possible, while families appreciate the ease of a kiosk and the distraction of a tablet for the young ones. But the option of ordering at the front counter remains.

“We won’t force customers to behave in a way they don’t want to behave,” said Pomroy, who took over the £3.2 billion UK business in February after 19 years within the McDonald’s organisation. “For us, it is not so much about speed, but about having more choice.”

The “Experience of the Future” programme aims to overhaul the entire UK estate in less than five years. Conversions are running at about 30 per month, with four more of Gibson’s 14 Scottish restaurants due to change next year.