What’s your first memory of McDonald’s? You must have one, if you were a kid in the 80’s like me. All the popular kids had parties at McDonald’s, and you got to sit on the little mushroom seats and The Chosen Ones got to sit with the birthday boy/girl at the table with the looming Ronald McDonald on it, and they all got to go and look at the big freezer in the kitchen. I never got to do that. Sigh.
We only had one McDonald’s on the Isle of Wight when I was a kid, and it was miles away in the main town, so we only ever went there as a treat when we were also going to the cinema. So I still associate it with feeling excited, and with having a treat. I’ve never known a kid who doesn’t light up at the mere mention of the phrase “Happy Meal”
I was invited to McDonald’s last week to see some of the new and shiny things the chain is rolling out over the country. Unbelievably, it would seem that Maccy D’s has managed to get even quicker, and more convenient for dinner on the hop!
I visited the branch in Rayleigh, in Essex, which has been newly done up. I walked in to be greeted by what looked like two enormous double sided iPads. These kiosks are manned by a very smiley person only too happy to explain that these are touchscreen ordering devices, which can send through your order direct to the kitchen – it gets better – and you can choose a seating area, drag your recalcitrant children to it, and have your food delivered to you! And best of all, you get to customise the order and it is freshly cooked according to the order, so no more hanging around waiting for that burger with no gherkins (no gherkins!) They are also looking into ordering via app from your phone before you even arrive!
Some of the new seating areas have iPads for said children to keep them entertained for the very short time it takes their meals to arrive – or there are crayons and paper to grab. And you can forget about that unhealthy tag McDonald’s used to have, they told me less Happy Meals these days are served with fries any more, most of them are customised to include veg sticks or fruit, and water or organic milk has replaced fizzy drinks (not that Rian drinks fizzy drinks – they are spicy apparently?!) The salt in Happy Meals has also been stripped right back. You can also charge your phone whilst you eat – all the plugs in the restaurant now have USB ports. Oh, and free wi-fi!
As a part of my trip to the store, I also got to go backstage to where the magic happens. By magic I mean Big Macs. I got to make a Big Mac! Before I did that though I learnt about McDonald’s aim to be completely carbon neutral in the next few years. Did you know they even reuse the oil from the chip fryers as fuel in their delivery lorries?! Good effort. They also have really good staff training and progression through the company. I don’t think you could insult someone by saying they could only get a job in McDonald’s any more – if anything they have problems with other retailers trying to pinch their very well trained staff! It was also really nice to see that the staff rooms are just as nice as the front of the restaurants, with iPads and recycling stations too.
In the kitchen as well as learning how to put together a Big Mac, I was told about the cycle of the restaurant. Fillings are brought out at set times of service to make sure they are the perfect temperature to be at their most tasty once they are in a sandwich. All the stock is monitored all the time to cut down wastage – there is very little now the food is being made to order. In rush hours this particular kitchen can put out 650 orders per hour!
I had such a fun afternoon, and getting to make a Big Mac is another one of those utterly random experiences I can add to the list of things blogging has brought me. Thanks McDonald’s!