McDonald’s is testing a more family-friendly restaurant design with new technologies in the United Kingdom and Germany, the chain said.
Self-order kiosks, digital-order information displays, dining room computer stations for consumers and a motion-sensitive gaming table are part of the so-called “Spirit of Family” design, according to U.K. representatives of the Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp.
The Spirit of Family package is in test at one of the chain’s restaurants in Milton Keynes — a city about an hour from London by car — and was highlighted during a recent presentation by Mark Fabes, information technology director for McDonald’s UK.
McDonald’s officials, who provided Nation’s Restaurant News with a summary of Fabes’ New York presentation at a technology company briefing and additional information about the design trial, said one of the chain’s units in Grabenstatt, Germany, near Munich, also is testing a Spirit of Family package.
McDonald’s said the design is intended to “reduce stressful moments for families and enhance the overall sense of enjoyment for families” while visiting McDonald’s.
An example of the design philosophy can be found in the U.K. test restaurant’s flexible family seating area, which McDonald’s described as a spacious and comfortable dining room section featuring flat screen TVs.
“The content for the TVs in the restaurant was specially developed and includes demonstrations of magic tricks and origami,” said Kate McGown, McDonald’s UK press officer.
A test of family-oriented amenities is not unique to the overseas endeavour, however, as an emphasis on kid-friendly content is intended to be a hallmark of the U.S.-based McDonald’s Channel, according to Lee Edmondson of ChannelPort Communications LLC.
Edmondson’s Los Angeles company is overseeing an extended test of that proprietary, in-restaurant multimedia network at about 650 California McDonald’s locations that began in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The Milton Keynes location has five self-order kiosks enabling customers to order at their own pace, McDonald’s said. While kiosks are not unique to the test restaurant among the chain’s European operations, at the Milton Keynes unit they interact with digital customer order displays, or CODs.
The order displays provide customers with a text recap of items they selected using images of menu offerings. After payment, kiosk and counter customers alike receive order numbers that appear on a pick-up area display that alerts them by number when their orders have been filled, McGown said.
As with all McDonald’s restaurants in the United Kingdom, the Spirit of Family test unit supports contactless transaction payments. McGown said the reader terminals permit guests to pay for their meals with a wave of their smartphone or tap-and-go credit or debit card.
IT chief Fabes said contactless transactions completed in the chain’s restaurants now represent 50 percent of all transactions of that type in the United Kingdom.
Also part of the Spirit of Family design is a play area that includes a climbing structure, 12 iPad touch-screen tablet computer stations and “Digital Play,” which enables users to participate in games by interacting with motion-sensitive surfaces on one table and a small portion of the floor.
The tablet computers are mounted securely on benches using a flexible bouncepad mechanism that makes it possible to move them for game play. McGown said they are loaded with software for gaming and access to newspapers, local news and event information sites, among others.
Customers also can use the iPads to access the Internet by way of the free WiFi service available in all U.K. McDonald’s restaurants, she said.
Other features found in the U.K. Spirit of Family test store are:
• A one-stop assistance point for parents, known as the “Tool Box,” where they can order, take a high chair and handle other tasks, such as collecting condiments.
• An area for children’s parties in which furniture can be rearranged to create a variety of different space configurations.
• New design high chairs for easy storage.
McDonald’s UK officials declined to provide information about sales lift, if any, resulting from the addition of Spirit of Family design components.
In the United Kingdom, the test of the Spirit of Family design concept comes near the end of a systemwide restaurant re-imaging initiative begun in 2006. So far that campaign has seen about 1,000 locations refreshed, with the remaining 200 or so units expected to adopt the new look by the end of the year, Fabes said.