Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Can It Be? Yes a Marvelous McDonald's!

Just wanting average boring old fast food and a waft of coupons in the mail from "The Golden Arches", I stopped off at McDonald's (275 Robson Street, Vancouver).

Upon entering I was welcomed by a manager like person who said:

"Welcome to be McDonald's how will be paying?"

A little confused I held up my coupon and said "Cash and coupon?"

He pointed me towards the till and a small line.  In line, I reviewed why the manager was asking for payment after welcoming customers and, heck, why was there a manager in the front door anyway?

McDonald's Storefront at Robson and Hamilton Streets
McDonald's at Robson & Hamilton Streets

McDonald's is field testing automated order systems where customers type in their own orders on a touch screen computer and pay using credit card or debit.  The self serve systems are supported by a McDonald's employee (hence the white shirted manager hero type) to guide customers through the system.

At this McDonald's, perhaps ten percent of visitors used the system.  Otherwise we merely enjoyed being welcomed to McDonald's with the exterior door held open by a smiling yet welcoming employee.

I slowly moved up the line to order at the cash with another welcoming employee.

The Order: 1 Big Mac Meal with Medium Fries and a Medium Coke.

The employee took my coupon and cash.  Then proceeded to hand me a receipt with an order number on it and directed me to the left to watch the screen and listen for my order number to be called.

This was a little different from the usual McDonald's set up where the cashier put yours order together or takes the next order after you and then puts yours together.  This can be frustrating at times as other customers take their sweet time in ordering or the cashier is given an order that is unable to be punched in.

 Sometimes McDonald's locations augment their cashiers with runners who gather the meals.  Depending on how busy this is the runner can be overwhelmed and the cashiers being useless. I've seen times where the cashier has finished taking all the orders and just stands their looking off into space as I can see my order is third in line but the runner is gathering the first order.  There is nothing more maddening at the fast food style restaurants than seeing your complete order ready but no one is available to pick it up.

Two employees were working the pick up counter.  They were impressively moving that food twice as fast as any runner under the old system of order could.  Numbers were flashing on the screen and being called out.  The only slow down was customers who were dazed and confused about what their number was or what they ordered.  

I quickly picked up my order and headed for the front door.  Why was I eager to leave the restaurant?  This location, across from the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch, has a nice set of patio seating with overhead electric heaters.  It's a great spot to people watch those coming and going.

Big Mac Sandwich
Big Mac Sandwich
I dug into my Big Mac to find it just the way I always remembered it.  Decent temperature with adequate secret sauce (is it really a Thousand Island dressing concoction?).  Of course there is always the leftover lettuce to munch on afterward.

Medium McDonald's French Fries
Medium French Fries
The fries tasted like they were right out of the fryer and dished up.  Perfect composition and no sogginess.  Cold fries are my number one complaint about McDonald's.  I hate it when they serve up fries that have been sitting there for so long.  But not at this location, perhaps with the ordering system customer wade through plus a screen above the fryers showing what is required, things move along in an orderly fashion speeding up the process.

Overall, this McDonald's has improved processes to speed up customer wait times at the front counter.  Hopefully this will help increase the number of customers being served at the counter.  I know if I walk in to find a whole bunch of customers waiting to order and waiting for their orders along with seemingly incompetence behind the counter, I bail.  Along with surprisingly decent service, this location provides your burgers and fries just as you come to expect, warm and with all the advertised toppings, etc.  I'll be back to this location during my trip for a quick bite to eat.

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