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McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and KFC are evolving elements of their service to defend market share.
McDonald's: Enabling customization
While McDonald’s reportedly began testing build-your-own burgers last fall in Orange County, Calif., the brand with more than 14,000 U.S. locations spent much of last week’s earnings call talking about customization on a systemwide scale.
During the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain’s fourth-quarter earnings call, chief executive Don Thompson said McDonald’s would make a more concerted effort to market the customization it already allows in preparation for the completed rollout of new kitchen equipment this spring designed to increase customization without hurting speed of service.
“Customers don’t realize to the greatest extent that at McDonald’s we are making that sandwich, preparing that in the back-of-the-house after you place that order,” Thompson said. “What does this mean? It means that … awareness the customers have about who we really are as McDonald’s and what we are able to deliver in that kitchen, which is a customized sandwich, [is lacking.]”
When a securities analyst questioned how more customization would not slow down operations, McDonald’s chief operating officer Tim Fenton responded that crew members would not have to run around each other in the back-of-the-house to restock prep tables and could stay in place to assemble sandwiches.
“Again,” Fenton added, “we are monitoring the pace and the rate of new products that we bring and giving our crews and management ample time to train and get used to [them] before we switch it up and change it on them.”
Industry watcher Gordon said McDonald’s was right to focus on back-of-the-house operations, which should yield burgers that hold up to quality standards being set at fast-casual rivals.
“Maybe McDonald’s service times were conflicting with the promise of what a ‘better burger’ is supposed to be,” he said.