Product Managers Are Bringing Robots To McDonalds

Soon you'll be waited on by robots at McDonalds
Soon you’ll be waited on by robots at McDonalds
Image Credit: Mike Mozart

Pity the poor product managers at McDonalds! They work for one of the most successful fast food restaurants on the planet and so they are charged with finding ways to make their business grow bigger and grow faster all the time. McDonalds is already a fairly smooth flowing operation that has years of experience in what works well. However, the competitive fast food market in which they are competing is changing and this means that McDonalds has to make changes to their product development definition and get better at what they are doing. What changes will their product managers make?

The Challenges Facing McDonalds

McDonalds is currently starting to face new competition. There are a number of smaller burger chains that have shown up in the past few years who are starting to become more popular and are taking customers away from McDonalds. It turns out that the number of customers visiting fast food restaurants fell by 1% during the first three months of this year. There has been declining visits to fast food restaurants for a while. This is not going to look good on anyone’s product manager resume.

McDonalds understands that they need to make changes in order to keep people visiting their stores. They have already started to take steps to make their stores more appealing. They have stopped serving some of their burger types and they have given their franchisees more control over what goes on their menu. The reason for these changes has been to find ways to simplify their operations. What the McDonalds product managers want to do is to find ways to focus on improving their customer’s experience as they use the drive-through to pick up food. The ultimate measure of how this is going will be the speed of the service that McDonalds can provide to their customers.

The McDonalds product managers believe that automation is the secret to getting things to run quicker and more smoothly at their restaurants. However, there are issues here. The people who have spent time trying to unionize McDonald’s workers don’t like it when the product managers start to talk about adding automation to how McDonalds runs their restaurants. They believe that automation will lead to the loss of jobs. The unions have already organized walkouts at McDonalds restaurants based on both pay and working conditions.

The Changes Coming To McDonalds

So what kind of changes are the McDonalds product managers thinking about? The company is currently in the process of testing voice-recognition software to be used in their drive through. At the same time, they are trying out robots inside of the restaurant that can toss fries, chicken, and fish into vats of oil. The goal of looking into these new technologies is to find ways that McDonalds can shorten their customer wait times that have become longer in the past few years.

McDonalds is in the process of trying to roll out the robotic fryer and the voice activated drive-through to their restaurants nationwide. Right now the company is not saying how much these changes will cost the individual restaurant owners. In the past changes like this have caused problems. Franchisees have pushed back at the cost of other restaurant refurbishments and changes to operations. The company hopes that the new technology will help McDonald’s workers and not threaten their jobs.

The McDonalds product managers know that they have to make changes. The reason is because their competition is making changes. Domino’s Pizza has already been testing voice recognition to take orders over the phone. Other competitors have started to use self-operating ovens and dishwashers. Robots have also been used to flip burgers and to perform other fast food restaurant rote tasks.

What All Of This Means For You

Change is coming to McDonalds and the McDonalds product managers are the ones who have to take a look at their product manager job description and determine what needs to be done and when. The fast food market is a highly competitive market and McDonalds is starting to feel the heat from some of new burger chains that have opened. The McDonalds product managers have to determine how they can increase their speed of service and improve their quality at the same time.

As the competition in the fast food business is increasing, the McDonalds product managers are experiencing a slowdown in the number of customers who are coming to their restaurant. McDonalds has already made some changes to allow for quicker service. Items have been removed from the menu and more control has been given to the restaurant owners in order to streamline operations. The product managers believe that more automation is the way to achieve what they are trying to do. However, this may cause problems with the unions who are concerned about the potential loss of jobs. The product managers are experimenting with voice activation for the drive-through and robots for preparing food. There are issues regarding the costs that increased automation will place on the restaurant owners. McDonalds has to make changes because their completion is already making these types of changes.

McDonalds has become one of the largest fast food restaurants because they have created systems and processes that allow them to deliver high quality food quickly. The McDonalds product managers understand the fast food market is changing and so they need to change also. It looks like using more automation may provide McDonalds with the improvements that they need. We’ll have to watch closely and see how this rolls out.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that McDonalds can get their workers to work with the robots instead of against them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the fasting growing areas in retail right now has to do with the home delivery of food. Just about everywhere that you go to eat, you probably see stickers plastered on the window saying that if you wanted to stay home and eat this location’s food, you could do it by calling one of several different home food delivery firms. What a wonderful age we are living in! However, it turns out that for the product managers who work at these food delivery firms, all is not so good. They have a real challenge on their hands and they need to find out how to make their new business be financially successful.