McDonald's is trying to reopen more dining rooms to ease the 'extraordinary pressure' on its drive-thrus
McDonald'sis focused on reopening remaining dining rooms to ease drive-thru pressure.
- Drive-thru sales exploded during the pandemic and remain elevated.
Drive-thrus have been crucial to the survival and success of
CEO Chris Kempczinski told investors in a January earnings call that service time slowed down in 2021 because of challenges in part related to staffing, so every market is "laser-focused" on reducing those times. Serving customers quickly is important, he said, because as service times go down, customer satisfaction increases.
Reopening dining rooms is a focus for McDonald's in the upcoming quarter because it will alleviate some of the "extraordinary pressure" on drive-thrus, Kempczinski said. About 80% of US dining rooms are open as of January 2022, with the expectation that the rest will reopen in the near future, though he did not elaborate on a specific timeline.
Drive-thrus in particular got slower in 2021, though they are still faster than average times in 2019. This is true broadly across the industry, not just at McDonald's, according to the SeeLevel HX Annual Drive-Thru Study of nearly 1500 locations of big brands released in September 2021.
Waits are so long in part because sales are high. In the same earnings call, McDonald's announced record sales higher than any quarter since they started tracking comparable sales in 1993. The burger chain didn't share the exact portion of sales made from drive-thru orders, but confirmed that they were elevated over 2019 levels. Drive-thru orders made up as much as 70% of all sales in some regions during the pandemic.
McDonald's has made other changes to reduce wait times and make operations easier for workers serving drive-thrus and dining rooms. Like fast-food competitors, McDonald's has improved drive-thrus over the last two years, adding extra lanes and testing automation and AI technology to reduce the number of workers needed to run drive-thrus.
The chain also altered menus in 2020, cutting some poor-selling menu items and eliminated all-day breakfast. The smaller menu was intended to "simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew," McDonald's told Business Insider at the time.
More recently, McDonald's introduced four new menu hacks that combine already existing menu items. All the components are already on menus, so there's no added costs or complexity for workers. McDonald's even asks customers to assemble the menu hacks themselves, eliminating any need to train workers on new dishes.
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