After serving billions and billions in person, McDonald's is looking to carve a new path by taking the ordering process high-tech.
“We are calling it the experience of the future and it's a huge game plan,” said Gonzales McDonald's owner Robert Wezeman.
Within the next two years, the grand plan is to update all McDonald's stores for the current generation. Smart phone users will be able to place an order at home and pick up their Big Mac curbside or have their devices connect with the drive-thru menu board to automatically select their regular order or something new. Here in Gonzales, diners already have the option of mobile ordering and a new kiosk system inside the store that allows patrons to order what they please and pay without approaching the counter.
But of course, the old fashioned way of doing things — actually talking to an employee face-to-face — isn't going away any time soon.
“We're getting busier and we need more staff in the back,” said Wezeman, quick to clarify that robots won't be taking over his store. “We now have more order points in which to take orders and we're definitely going to need more people to make that product in the back. This is convenience for the customers.”
Wezeman might know what he's doing. He started working at McDonald's as part of the crew, and 33 years later he not only owns the Gonzales store but locations in Flatonia and Victoria. A complete rebuild of this restaurant two years ago allowed him to modernize the look of the store and to bring in better equipment for his staff and technology for the smart phone user.
“It's my prettiest store,” he said. “It's definitely one of my best looking stores that I have now.”
Visitors will notice upon entering several large kiosks for self-made orders. Think of them as giant iPads where you can scroll through a menu, touch the screen to select a meal and drink, make additions, and go back to make changes if a family member decides halfway through that they missed something. Customers can pay right there, get a receipt, and have a seat until their number is called.
Crew member Adrian James was there to assist with an order for McDonald's new Smokehouse burger. The process was painless and the meal came out as orderly as you would expect from prior fast food experiences.
Speaking of the Smokehouse burger, it is a newer menu item that the restaurant chain is trying out in order to bring freshness to their selection along with a higher nutritional value. Wezeman explained that the stores are looking to venture where the public is going in regards to healthier food choices.
“Customers want taste and they want flavor,” he said. “But at the same time they want options, and we are going through that right now, we're going through a transition. They're removing all the preservatives and additives in our products one at a time.”
For example, they have moved to a system where their beef is no longer “flash frozen.” Wezeman said the process allows the beef to hold juices better now. And in the famous Happy Meals, parents will find options for apples and lower calorie milk, choices that will help guide children to healthier dining experiences. The toys, though, will still remain as fun as ever.
In the meantime, Wezeman invites customers to come by and try out the new technology, which is getting its debut in Gonzales before most other small towns in Texas.
“It just makes it simpler for the customer,” he said.