When McDonald’s updated its traditional printing menus to digital menu boards, it found some challenges. These challenges were not about current technology, but rather about communication, according to Rick Cook, senior manager of US IT restaurant solution at McDonald’s, in a presentation at Digital Signage Expo.
“The challenges of technology are usually communication challenges”, Cook said at the event. When the QSR began deploying digital menu boards, its goal was to improve the customer service experience by integrating digital menu boards in all of its locations in the United States.
This was a massive task, considering that the QSR had to deploy 40,000 screens while working with 45 different creative agencies. Other complexities included localized content, specials, FDA regulations, screen size variation and other issues.
However, once the screens were deployed, the company found other problems at the individual restaurant level. The company waited three months after the initial deployment to perform an analysis to identify these key issues. Some of these topics include:
In the past, McDonald’s relied on a direct communication mindset with regional managers, according to Cook. This meant that if the company planned to do some kind of national campaign, it would contact the directors directly and tell them how to change the content in the menu tables through the graphical user interface. The problem with this approach is that some regional managers would not read the email, or they would not understand the process. To address this issue, McDonald’s decided to adopt a process of sending content to the screens. The restaurant simply received this content directly, so the regional owners would not have to worry about setting it up.
A major challenge for the deployment was to integrate the menu tables with outdated GUIs. Cook emphasized that young workers who run the system would not appreciate a system that is not intuitive. The restaurant tried to solve this problem by upgrading to a WYSIWYG GUI that allowed users to see the changes in real time. The GUI established three categories of menu items: a) necessary, b) default and c) local. The required elements could not be changed, while the default value could be changed. Local was populated by local promotions. If a regional manager chose not to fill in the local point, the system would delete the local option from the menu board and remove the blank space. Cook said the process would have gone smoother if the restaurant had updated the GUI before displaying the digital menu boards.
For large-scale deployments, communication and training are absolutely fundamental. “You have to communicate to thousands of business owners, you have to make sure that the content managers are on board with the message,” Cook said. He also emphasized that a key way to address this is to make sure that high-level leadership is defending technology. It is not a matter of current technology, it is a question of how well it communicates about technology.