Everything You Need to Know About Tech at McDonald’s
June 30, 2021
A Q&A with global Chief Information Officer Daniel Henry
At McDonald’s, we’re constantly innovating to meet the changing needs of our customers. Recently, our global Chief Information Officer Daniel Henry sat down to answer a few commonly asked questions about the technology we’re developing behind the scenes – and how it may show up in restaurants around the world.
We launched our Accelerating the Arches growth strategy in November 2020. How does Global Technology play a role in bringing this strategy to life?
Obviously, my team plays a big role in what we call the 3D’s: Digital, Drive Thru and Delivery. We’re working with our partners to make sure that the technology that powers our mobile app, Drive Thru and Delivery platforms is focused on the customer – that it’s engaging, it’s making their lives easier, and it’s personalizing their McDonald’s experience. Not only that, but it has to work for our customers 65 million times a day. So everything we create must always be available and able to scale to support our restaurants and guests around the world.
Ultimately, McDonald’s is in the business of delivering food quickly. When our technology delivers a seamless customer experience, I'm the happiest person in the organization.
What’s the philosophy of the Global Technology department?
I like to say our team is oriented around the customer experience and that we take a product-centric approach. We don’t do “tech for tech’s sake.” I'm a big believer that technology is at the core of almost everything we’re doing at McDonald’s. It's an enabler for growth – that’s how we think of technology here.
We’ve prioritized building global platforms that allow us to move at the speed and scale of McDonald's. What this means is that our tech team in the U.S. can take advantage of what we use in Australia, and Canada can take advantage of what we use in Germany. We’re always thinking about how we can standardize our technology so we can deliver it to our customers around the world and create a shared experience with our restaurant that’s as recognizable and reliable as the Arches themselves. This integrated technology ecosystem is what allowed us to make sure our markets had the digital capabilities needed to serve customers during the pandemic and what will support our continued digital growth.
You’re also seeing this come to life with the new MyMcDonald’s Rewards program in several markets. Our goal is to launch a platform that delivers a great customer experience and maintains a level of global standardization, while also giving markets the customization they need through product engineering.
How is Global Technology keeping up with current demands from modern customers?
The restaurant industry saw a tremendous acceleration of digital during the pandemic. It’s more than just meeting expectations around convenience, digital experiences like the app will become as integral to our relationship with customers as the experience in our restaurants.
Recently, we’ve made sure we have the right platforms and talent in place to support the growth of our mobile app – and the increasing number of ways the app can be used by our 40 million active app users (in just our top six markets). Our app’s features can be used at any of the five main McDonald’s ordering channels: front counter, kiosk, Delivery, Drive Thru, and, obviously, the mobile app itself – it’s important all these experiences are easy and connected. If you want to use Loyalty points at the front counter, great. This also needs to be reflected the next time you want to use them in the Drive Thru. We know our business is going to change, and consumer mindsets will change, and we need to keep up with those demands. So, while we’re constantly adding features to our digital presence, we always have our eye on what’s next.
We also know our technology is being compared to the numerous different apps and platforms our customers use every day – from competitors and beyond. If we’re not creating an experience that’s positive for them, we know we’ll lose them very quickly.
Personalization and convenience are so important when it comes to meeting and evolving expectations. When can McDonald’s customers around the world expect to join McDonald’s Loyalty program, MyMcDonald’s Rewards?
This will depend on the market, but especially in our smaller global markets, we’re already seeing rollouts of MyMcDonald’s Rewards. Notably, the U.S. will launch nationwide in July, and Germany will launch their program later this year as well. I’m so excited to see this come to life across the world – and it’s rewarding (no pun intended) to see the tech in action in restaurants. I was in Phoenix a few months ago as part of the U.S. pilot, and I think customers will be really pleased with what they experience. The U.S. and global launches have been such a partnership across the System and we’re excited to see the momentum continue.
McDonald’s is known for the Drive Thru. What developments from Global Tech will customers recognize?
It’s true – we have 25,000 Drive Thrus around the world, and in 95% of our U.S. restaurants. We’re known for our Drive Thru, and we’re continuously innovating and testing new technologies to make it even better. This is an interesting and fun part to think through, because our Drive Thru technology needs to allow for scale, flexibility and be useful in more than one market. It’s our job as a global function to find the commonalities that will improve all customers’ Drive Thru experiences, whether they’re in North America, Asia or anywhere else.
Our Digital Menu Boards are an obvious example of recent technology that has improved our Drive Thrus around the world. With Digital Menu Boards, we’re able to quickly shift our menus when needed, customers can see and confirm their orders, and the use of Dynamic Yield’s suggestive sell capabilities personalizes customers’ experiences in new and exciting ways. The Drive Thru is one place where we see that concept of “always-on” technology enabling our restaurants to run better. This creates better experiences for our customers.
Personally, whenever I crave McDonald’s, I place my order on the app, but I go through the Drive Thru. It’s a frictionless experience. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s secure. There are other ways to get your food from McDonald’s, but that’s my favorite. I think it’s also a great example of how an ordering experience that’s been around for 45 years can evolve to remain relevant and convenient for customers. While I’m making shameless plugs for technology, I’d also encourage those with MyMcDonald’s Rewards in their restaurants to make sure they’re using the app to earn and use Loyalty points!
Who makes up the Global Technology function at McDonald’s?
So many different teams make our technology innovations possible and keep our restaurant technology running every single day. I’ll mention a few.
First, we have Product Engineering and Architecture teams who are designing and building critical, scalable products to drive our business. They are focused making sure we’re creating elegant, useful technology platforms that provide the business the flexibility to integrate with new solutions, regardless if we build them or partner with technology providers. We have done this with several technologies already, including our deployment of Dynamic Yield and the testing of Automated Order Taking (AOT).
Then we have Data Experts, who are making sure that our data is consistent across all the different touchpoints a customer can have at McDonald’s. They’re making sure our data is accurate and secure at all times.
Our Infrastructure team makes sure our technology platforms can scale with us, and that they can deal with the ebbs and flows of business. When Marketing does a “Free Fries Friday” push, for example, they make sure that our infrastructure can handle that.
Our Market Deployment teams work closely with our engineering teams to ensure we’re building useful tech that can be integrated into the market’s ecosystem. They help preserve global standardization while considering the unique conditions of each market, and oversee how and if innovations get rolled out.
Everyone within Global Technology plays a key role in keeping our business going, every single day.
How are you approaching the second half of 2021?
I'm really proud of the platforms and features our teams have created and the great progress we’ve made this year. My focus for the second half of 2021 is for everyone in Global Tech and beyond to see their hard work in action. That's my #1 priority.
I want our customers to reap the benefits of our work through seamless, consistently enjoyable McDonald’s experiences – and I want our teams to feel proud seeing their work in action every day. That’s something unique about McDonald’s, we attract top tech talent because our employees can see their work in 39,000 restaurants around the world. That’s an addictive feeling.