What’s happened to McDonald’s?

The signature collection Classic at McDonald's

My children love McDonald’s, it’s their idea of a treat. One which they save up for through good behaviour – you can imagine how difficult that might be for five-year old twins.

I can’t remember why, but over the summer we ended up at McDonald’s at Cardiff Bay. I can’t remember what had led to it, it’s not a McDonald’s we would usually visit. The children had been so well-behaved I decided they deserved it, and to sit inside (which is how I know they had been exceptional). I was so impressed with what followed, this was my tweet at the time:McDonald's tweetThe whole format had changed, the team member on the floor was really attentive in the height of summer holiday business. As the kids ate I noticed I could order via a self-service screen, not having to worry about queues. I was able to pick the time when the children were most engrossed to sneak off to order them an ice-cream.

So, when an invite arrived to pop to the Swansea restaurant to get a better understanding of the evolution at McDonald’s I was more than a little intrigued to find out what was going on. Especially after our local restaurant had been shut for a few weeks recently and I hadn’t had chance to find out why.

As you enter each McDonald’s which has undergone a transformation there’s a different feel, a different design. Whilst my recollection of the Cardiff Bay restaurant was modern and neutral, the Swansea McDonald’s has more of a graffiti feel, reflecting the university city it services. Making a Big Mac at McDonald's Ron Mounsey, the franchisee manager for the M4 corridor from Carmarthen to the Bryn Glas Tunnels, was on hand to explain all the changes which have taken place. Ron was honest and enthusiastic about the changes which are taking place. Acknowledging the potential in the past for food to sit waiting, the new look of McDonald’s restaurants offers many changes, most importantly that food is prepared when it’s ordered so there’s no food left standing.Self service at McDonald'sThe new format means it feels a little like Argos, but the order points do more than let you put in a seven digit number, you get to choose your food, customise your order (I can’t even begin on my daughter’s fussy choices), and if you’re anything like me, ordering something a little different whilst you’re not panicking about the queue building behind you.

As well as creating a system which means you can order faster, in a way which suits you, and getting your food made to order, there are other efficiencies. The made to order system cuts down on waste as there’s no food waiting for too long on the runway. McDonald’s also takes a proactive stance of recycling, not limited to the pallets of cardboard boxes, but also in encouraging customer packaging to find its way to a recycling centre.Recycling at McDonald'sAnd just to prove the commitment, we got to explore ‘behind the scenes’. To understand how each element of an order was prepared, the technology which supports getting a customer order right.Behind the scenes at McDonald'sWhilst I’ve previously looked at what’s going on behind fast food counters as resembling chaos, in reality at McDonald’s “there’s a place for everyone”, it is a form of the best organised chaos, because no-one is ever out-of-place, but everyone is working so fast, unless you’re in the thick of it you have no clue what’s going on around you.

I lost count of my efforts to take this photo: Behind the scenes at McDonald'sI was in awe of the machine that puts ketchup and mustard on your burger bun. The team worked so fast preparing the food it was difficult to capture.

The team at McDonald’s Swansea did a great effort in putting us at ease, whilst everything went on around us. Adam and Miles, the shift managers, made my jaw drop with the stats around how much food is produced. I’ve never thought too much about the wider impact of Fresher’s Week but knowing how many chicken nuggets get served during an overnight shift gets the brain working on how it’s even possible.

There was an amazing sense of pride and enthusiasm from the team we met. Those focused on serving the customers showed great politeness given we were so evidently stood in their way. You could see how the arrangement they have works in quieter periods as well as the height of service. 

Whilst we were there, we were also introduced to the signature collection. And did they look good:The signature collection at McDonald'sThe signature collection is now available at the Oxford Street McDonald’s in Swansea. My husband’s over the moon to find out it’s also available in Queen Street, Cardiff. For me, I sense the Saturday morning Boulder’s class will at some point coincide with a trip to the Newport Road restaurant.

Because they’re good, and cleverly cater for a range of tastes. I know my husband will have to try the Spicy burger, with Jalapeño slices, Pepper Jack cheese and a spicy relish.

For me, it’s the classic with bacon and cheese.

Not only do they have the thicker patty, but also a delicious Brioche-style bun, and like all the burgers made at McDonald’s, there’s a precision to the creation of the burger and it shows:The signature collection Classic at McDonald'sAnd if you’re popping in this side of Christmas to try the Signature Collection, or if you’re just driving through for some Happy Meals, definitely order a Spiced Cookie Latte for you.Festive hot drinks at McDonald'sA trip to McDonald’s will remain a treat for my children, and one of my guilty treats. There is an offset. The knowledge of all the effort which goes in from the team. There is a team commitment to creating a McDonald’s which offers customers the best possible experience – through the food tasted and the environment created.

Before Swansea, I thought my trip to a refurbished McDonald’s was a random great customer experience which warranted a tweet of thanks. Whilst I no longer feel quite as unique for this experience, it makes me happy to know this was the aspiration. This is what McDonald’s have set out to deliver to every customer.  And they’re succeeding.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with McDonald’s and I was compensated for my time in attending this event. I am grateful to Ron Mounsey, Lisa Rees (Operations Manager), Jayne James (Group Supervisor), Adam Phillips and Miles Jenkins for the hospitality.

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  • Reply
    Spencer Broadley
    November 26, 2016 at 07:37

    I am glad that McDonalds is changing – I occasionally went in years ago but was unimpressed, not really enjoying the pre-prepared burgers, and went in to meet an old friend who always went in for breakfast there, so I would have an uninspiring breakfast – unfortunately he has now died of old age. One thing I never liked was the scorching hot coffee though!!!
    After reading your review I will be tempted to re-try them again when they re-do my McDonalds locally.

    • Reply
      January 17, 2017 at 20:53

      If he made it to old age it might say something about McDonalds? 😉 I can’t do scorching hot coffee ever, I’m a pain for sitting there until it’s just above room temperature (by then I’ve forgotten and it’s stone cold when I remember). I don’t like to be a massive advocate of somewhere which I really do think it a ‘treat’ for my children, but if it’s a refurb-ed McDonalds it really does seem to have an improved level of customer service which goes hand in hand (tried another two now!), and I do think a good experience is made by the people as much as the food.

  • Reply
    Robeert Kopp
    October 15, 2017 at 01:11

    If it’s so great why do I have to wait up to one half hour for my food.The restaurant in Williams Lake BC is a mess and droves of us have had enough and we have gone to go to A and W restaurant where we can get food fast and correct orders and don’t have to go back numerous times. It’s so sad.At McDonald,s you put your order in and stand waiting in a second line for up to one half hour. It was better before all the changes. Last time I was there I had to go back twice to correct my order.

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