McDonald’s to Go debuts in London

Fast food chain McDonald’s has launched one of its biggest innovations since the first drive-thru opened in 1975, as Heather Cant reports

The new concept, a grab-and-go store, opened at the end of July in London, UK. Aiming to make fast food even faster, McDonald’s says it will focus on speed of service to cater for consumers on the move.

The Fleet Street store, in the capital’s busy office hub, has scrapped all seating, producing a take-away only model that reflects the fast-paced dynamic of London’s work bustle. Orders are placed on touch screens and the majority of staff are kitchen workers. This hole-in-the-wall model is a first for McDonald’s, yet the fast food giant says it is looking to trial “different and flexible formats depending on the local needs of customers in the surrounding areas.”

One size doesn’t fit all

It is another example of McDonald’s listening to changing consumer demands. Most recently, in June the fast food giant pledged to remove plastic lids from its McFlurry packaging in a push to become more environmentally friendly in step with an increasing awareness of environmental issues among customers.

Henry Trickey, senior vice president for development and IT at McDonald’s, said in a statement, “We know that one size doesn’t fit all and that’s exactly why we are launching McDonald’s to Go – to allow us to trial different formats in different locations, depending on customer needs.”

Jon Rook FCSI, managing director of Panache South, thinks trial and error will be an inevitable part of the process. “It’s going to be a hard nut to crack, certainly in an area where there’s so much choice of different delis with speedy service,” he says.

Despite the competition from food delivery services such as Deliveroo, Rook suggests this grab and go model could strike a perfect balance for city workers: “Food delivery services are convenient, but people want to stretch their legs and get some fresh air,” he adds. For those who don’t have time to sit in and enjoy a leisurely meal, but want a short break from their desk, McDonald’s to Go could be a good solution.

There for the taking

Rook predicts that the main challenge will be for McDonald’s to market itself as an appealing option for office workers. “It’ll have to work quite hard to rebrand, but if it provides a decent quality product at a decent price people will give it a go. I think it’s there for the taking,” he says Rook adding that the next step could be stores opening in university cities, as the grab-and-go model would appeal to the student market.

Ian Maitland FCSI of RPP Solution, sees this as an example of McDonald’s responding to consumer demands and market competition. “There’s a very nice captive audience here to order food in,” he says. “McDonald’s will look at the demographics and then place the stores where they need to.”

The Fleet Street store will adapt to achieve this need for speed by offering a reduced menu. McDonald’s has invested over half a billion pounds into revamped kitchens with the aim of reaching ultimate convenience for customers. Maitland adds that for this concept to work “the system has to be very, very sleek. By reducing the menu, McDonald’s will be looking to make underused equipment redundant.”

Whether the Fleet Street store will remain as one of a kind, or if McDonald’s will expand into other cities remains to be seen. Time will tell if the grab-and-go model is here to stay.

Heather Cant


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