On Thursday evening I was invited to take a tour of the Silverlink McDonalds restaurant to see how modern technology is changing the face of this well-known fast food brand. McDonalds have been in the UK since 1974 and have expanded with over 1,249 branches in the UK alone. Like most people we are partial to an egg McMuffin to line the stomach before an early morning road trip and a Big Mac on those hungry days. One thing about the McDonalds brand is that you know what you are getting no matter where in the world you are.
We met the owner of the Silverlink franchise Bill who’s enthusiasm for the McDonalds brand and his business was infectious. Bill was the 6th Franchisee owner in the UK back in the 1980’s and has overseen personally all of the changes at his branches across the North East. Bill and the McDonalds communication team talked us through the changes in the store from the way food is prepared in the kitchen to the modern decor in the dining area.
The highlight was going in the kitchen (with our own hats, aprons and name badges) and making our own Big Macs. Here’s some of the knowledge I gained on my behind the scenes tour:
The decor in the restaurant is modern, eye catching and spacious. Long tables lend themselves perfectly to a Happy Meal with the kids and a group of their pals.
Whereas cosy booths as ideal to conduct a meeting place. Power points and free wi-fi throughout to attract anyone wishing to do some work while they grab a meal.
Kiosk points which allow you to order your meal yourself on touch screens. Great if you want a bit more time to go through the options without holding up the queue. From the screens you can select language, which is great for any overseas visitors to UK.
As with most places these days there is the option to pay using chip and pin, contactless or apple pay, but cash payment is still available with the cashiers. For those with kids I thought the option to make the image smaller so they can pick their own selection was great, and the fact juice options are highlighted before fizzy pop was another useful addition.
From the kiosks you can select table service (another new innovation) to instruct floor staff to deliver to you. This is perfect for those with small kids in buggies, mobility problems or just if you have bulky shopping in tow. Although it could appear you would wait longer for table service the opposite is true. It could feel that by using a computer you are losing the ‘human touch’ but floor staff are trained to greet customers and help if you need extra sauces or straws.
Made to Order Burgers
Innovations have been made behind the scenes in the kitchen too. Staff no longer stack up the burgers in the metal trays. Each burger is made to order with the ingredients you select, using a griddle which knows the exact cooking time depending on the thickness of the burger. If you don’t like cheese or pickles that’s no problem. In the future you will be able to add ingredients and not just take them away.
This way of working leads to less waste in the kitchen as food isn’t sitting around being discarded if not bought with in the timeframe. Computerised programmes calculate the number of burgers that need to be on the hot plate based on trends for that restaurant, number of people in the restaurants, time of year, etc. All very high tech.
McDonalds restaurants have all committed to reduce their environmental impact. Some innovations include the fact used cooking oil is recycled to make bio-fuel and delivery trucks never go back to the depot empty once they have delivered to each store. Ingredients now include only free range eggs and 100% British beef which can only be a good thing.
All cardboard from packaging (including the funky lampshades made from boxes) is recycled and recycling points in restaurants allow customers to divide up plastic and cardboard.
Big Mac Time
To conclude our tour we were given the opportunity to make our own BigMacs, following a quick tutorial! You have to be really organised…and fast!
My fellow blogger Katie Meehan had the upper hand as she worked in McDonalds in the Metro Centre when she was younger! Our burgers passed the test as they were sent to the servery for customers! Later we chatted over our own Big mac meal, and said our goodbyes.
McDonalds certainly seem to be putting more and more thought into sourcing ingredients and how their food is prepared, as well as embracing the digital age, making things as simple and easy to access as possible for their customers, which can only be a good thing!