Re-Imagining Effective Work

Digital Transformation at McDonalds – Drive Through Ordering


In partnership with a Microsoft Business Partner, McDonalds is exploring the use of speech to text to point-of-sale for drive-through customers (presented as a cognitive play). In the way I think of digital transformation (or re-imagining effective work), this is a change of work practice: switching from one way of doing something to a new / enhanced / better way. It’s a great experiment, and shaving seconds off the time waiting in drive-through will quickly add up to many millions of hours per year (as Starbucks did with its transformation of the ordering process) and some level of CO2 emissions reduction .

But how about going further? Putting on my re-imagining hat:

– If a customer has a standard order at a particular time of day, on sensing that customer is there again, the ordering system asks if the customer wants a repeat of their previous order. If it’s in the morning when the order is usually breakfast and black coffee, that’s what’s offered. If it is after 5pm when the order is generally 2x Big Macs with fries and a sundae, that’s what’s offered. Still a change of work practice.

– McDonalds will have scheduling algorithms in place for the specific ebbs and flows of orders through the day, to ensure the right food is on hand to cook and deliver when customers come. Those should be updated frequently based on specials, time of day, weather patterns, who won the football, etc. Taking the aforementioned cognitive capabilities, the near-proximity of a particular customer (based on sensor data from their vehicle or phone) could be feed into the scheduling system as well. The perfect and ideal scenario is the customer can bypass the ordering line altogether and just drive to the collection window to retrieve their standard order.

– McDonalds needs to become a financial institution, with credit cards and rechargeable prepaid cards on offer for paying for food. Drive into the drive through, your standard orders are available on your phone, you click approve, the scheduling system inside McDonalds calculates queue waiting time based on specifically who else is in the queue, you pick up your ordered meal when arriving at the collection window, and your meal cost is automatically charged. Now that’s getting far beyond work practice, and would be a business model transformation worthy of a case study.

I look forward to seeing it happen.