Will digital technology solve McDonald's woes?

| by Bradley Cooper
Will digital technology solve McDonald's woes?


Editor's Note: An earlier version of this blog ran on Digital Signage Today, a sister publication of Kiosk Marketplace.

When you are out on a road trip, is McDonald's your first choice? I only go to McDonald's if it's the only choice available. My main reasons for this mindset are the low quality food, poor service and long wait times.

McDonald's recently tried to turn all this around with a massive kiosk and digital signage upgrade to the tune of $6 billion. The restaurant plans to deliver:

  • Digital self-order kiosks.
  • Modernized dining rooms featuring "globally and locally inspired décor."
  • Refreshed exteriors.
  • New furniture. 
  • Remodeled counters centered around new table service. 
  • Interior and drive-thru digital menu boards.
  • Designated curbside pickup spots for mobile pay customers.
  • Expanded McCafé counters with larger display cases.

The real question is whether this upgrade will solve its woes. To understand that, we have to look at what interactive kiosks and digital signage can do and what they can't do.

What they can do

Interactive kiosks and digital signage can help bring an experience into the 21st century. Customers are used to looking at screens, so deploying screens is just a way to meet their expectations.

However, the most important element in digital media is how it can improve the customer experience and draw the customer's eye. A bright menu board, for example, can be far more pleasing to look at than a static display. The animations can draw customers' attention to a new item on the menu or a discount, which can boost sales.

Kiosks can also deliver more seamless checkout experiences, since customers can order their food directly from the kiosk and receive a ticket for later pickup.

Digital media is for more than just selling, however. Restaurants can use it to showcase funny videos such as from The Chive, or they can use it with interactive games in the restaurant, such as McDonald's touch tables.

The goal of digital media is to craft a better experience for the customer so they will come back later and engage with the brand in a deeper manner.

What they can't do

As for what they can't do, first of all, they can't replace employes. Many people believe that kiosks are a replacement for employees, but they actually boost demand. With kiosks, more customers can order more food, so restaurants like McDonald's need to have more employees in the back end to meet this demand.

Second of all, digital media cannot revitalize a brand by itself. If the food still tastes bad, no one will care about the fancy displays. Also, if the kiosks don't work well with your other systems, such as mobile payments or a digital coupon, customers will go somewhere else.

For McDonald's in particular to truly succeed, it will need more than just technological upgrades. It will also need an in-depth plan to boost quality and customer satisfaction. The restaurant needs to rethink who it hires, how much it pays them and how they train them.

Training is an area where displays can help. Displays can showcase reminders of how to make a complex product or offer cleanliness tips. But, if managers aren't following through or slacking on training, then it won't stick.

This is why all businesses, not just restaurants, should adopt broader strategies, which integrate the technology into the overall business and customer service strategies.

McDonald's and other restaurants should not look at technology as a separate tool, but as an integrated part of the overall experience, which succeeds or fails based on how well the other elements of the business perform.

Image via

Topics: Customer Experience, Digital Signage, Display Technology, Interactive / Touchscreen, Restaurants

Companies: McDonald's

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for and His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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