You Won't Recognize McDonald's by This Time Next Year

McDonald's Reports Second Quarter Earnings and Record Sales Reflecting Revitalization Progress
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McDonald's (MCD) may never be the same if new initiatives to drum up sales and increase customer satisfaction pan out.

The world's largest restaurant chain announced some bold initiatives late last week during an investor presentation. How does adding a third drive-thru window and replacing prep tables with larger areas that can accommodate a broader variety of fresh ingredients sound?

If that doesn't seem like the McDonald's you know today, that's pretty much the point.

After nearly a decade of consistent growth in same-restaurant sales, the master burger flipper proved it was mortal 13 months ago. The chain's monthly metrics have been mixed since then, leading investors to wonder why folks aren't going to McDonald's the way that they used to. Everything from chicken wings to premium chicken wraps to moving up its annual Monopoly promotion haven't panned out, and now the chain is going to get aggressive.

Closing a Door, and Opening a Window

One of the more interesting developments will be the third drive-thru window at new or rebuilt locations next year. The Fast Forward Drive-Thru update doesn't involve adding a third order screen. Things seem complicated enough at the recently updated units that have dual order stations for drivers. This will be a third window added beyond the first window where customers pay and the second window where they typically pick up their food. The third window will come into play when a customer places a highly customized order for items that take additional time to prepare.

Instead of inconveniencing drivers behind that car by having to wait longer than they have to -- or making things more unpleasant for the person placing the order by asking to pull off to the side of the restaurant -- the third window will be an attended pick-up location.

A third window probably didn't seem necessary back when the menu was as simple as the ones now at Five Guys or In-N-Out. However, now that folks can order everything from fancy McCafe Iced Caramel Mocha to McWrap Sweet Chili Grilled Chicken, speed and execution are being tested. A third window isn't the ideal solution, but it does make things less of an inconvenience for the person placing the order, those waiting behind him, and the employees who currently have to leave the restaurant to hand over complicated orders.

Prep Rally

The bolder initiative -- and one that will be incorporated across all the more than 14,000 domestic locations -- is a high-density prep table that will have room for dozens of fresh ingredients. The push here is to offer broader flavors for the fast food behemoth's sandwich options.

McDonald's is already testing a "build your own" sandwich at a California location with the new prep area, allowing customers to choose from 20 different toppings. Patrons can order off of two iPad stations with employees standing by to help out. Incorporating touchscreen tablets across the entire chain isn't likely in the near term, but the high-density prep tables are a no-brainer.

Fast food operators have been losing traffic to fast casual chains that offer quick-service meals that are higher in quality, with a relatively minor sacrifice of speed. Offering a wider variety of fresh ingredients would help McDonald's offer more taste bud-tantalizing options. The test location even allows guests to have their burger "chargrilled to order."

As long as McDonald's can do this without messing up too many orders or slowing down progress, the Fast Forward Drive-Thru initiative and the rollout of new prep tables next year could change the way consumers approach the now tired burger champ.

If McDonald's is right, you may never settle for Chicken McNuggets again.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.

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122 Comments

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bpaluch777

Mickey D's needs to get people to select their order items BEFORE approaching the order and payment station. An order form can be completed before approaching the cashier. Patrons, especially women, should be encouraged to have their form of payment out and ready when the order is entered. No digging in purses or wallets. When payment is paid, move away from the cashier so that the next patron can place their order.

November 22 2013 at 11:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matthew

Wendys blows McDonalds off the map as far as the taste of food goes.

November 22 2013 at 2:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hartbrkr8285

I would suggest that McD's come up with a better quality of food, or at least that's what my taste buds are saying. I used to live at McDonald's when I was younger. loved the Big Mac, fries and a chocolate milkshake. now at 58 I can barley stand to eat the food, because of my job if I eat lunch it is at a fast food place, hit and run, eat while I am going. that's my life. I think maybe my taste buds are changing, there are very few meals I enjoy from fast food places, but McD's is for me one of the worst. and they are trying to save money in my area, if you order a fish sandwich now, they only put half a slice of cheese on the thing, You can give me more for free but don't make me pay more for less.

November 21 2013 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Warrior

Our local McDonald's is heavily patronized by homeless people that you can smell 5 feet away if you don't happen to have a stuffy nose...or, 4 feet away if you do have a stuffy nose. So, McDonald's wants to make it an even more pleasant dining experience by having unsanitary customers, which also includes the general public that has germs and diseases, handling food that I may put on my sandwich. McDonald's and the health department need to take a closer look at this idea. If it's followed through on, I'll take my fast food business to every other fast food restaurant EXCEPT McDonald's.

November 21 2013 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

I actually invented the "touch the picture screen" drive through.
The business model that made McDonalds a success from the start was and still is cheap food fast.
Originally the prices were 5, 10, and 15 cents.
I can design a new McDonalds that would blow your mind.

November 21 2013 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to alfredschrader's comment
betty_brock

Why don't you aim a little higher. Maybe Burger King.

November 21 2013 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
willypfistergash

I invented the bullshit button.

November 21 2013 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
pdbliz

NEWS TODAY,,,,,,MAN FOUND DEAD IN THE BATHROOM AT Taco Bell.!!!!

November 21 2013 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pdbliz

I learned long time ago,,,,YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR,,,,
SAME AS,,,YOU GET WHAT YOU VOTED FOR,!!!!!!

November 21 2013 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pdbliz's comment
betty_brock

The trouble is the rest of us got what libs voted for, too.

November 21 2013 at 7:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to betty_brock's comment
pdbliz

Sadly.....this is true...
But,,I believe in CARMA.........CARMA IS HELL.!!!!!!
DEMOCRATES WILL GET 10 TIMES OVER,,,,,,,BAD CARMA.!!!!

November 21 2013 at 10:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
pdbliz

I bet you will not recognize the United States of America one year from today.!!!!

November 21 2013 at 6:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

You are right, I don't go to McDonalds now and I won't go a year from now

November 21 2013 at 5:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
trebob711

OMG do people still eat at mcdonals?

November 21 2013 at 5:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply