Ronald be not proud

On a recent visit to a McDonalds I was surprised that the experience had changed.  Something more suited to a digital retailer than a fast food restaurant.  Quick pay cash and card kiosks, a collection counter and that added ingredient of mass customer confusion.

Being a former Business Analyst, an Agile enthusiast and generally a process fiend I like to watch and closely observe to think about the thoughts behind the madness.   The last time I did this was at Luton Airport security, thinking would anyone actually design such a bad system.  Anyway I digress, I was in McDonalds awaiting a Quarter Pounder with Cheese…….mmmmm cheese.

Not wanting to get involved with that quick pay kiosk nonsense, i’m old school i quite like the personal interaction of a cashier.  I queued to order.  After a few minutes I was at the front of the queue, the delicious menu in my sights, all that was left now was to decide the drink.  Fresh Orange I exclaimed, one of my five a day I joked.

The cashier took my order and my hard earned cash and asked me to go and await my order, I was confused.  Where?, Over there they explained, in that crowd of lost individuals.

Then the madness started.  McDonalds seem to have separated the ordering, payment, collation and collection of the experience.  How exciting I thought.  This sounds alot like a kanban system, buzzing with excitement I observed for a few moments.

One person was quickly piling soft  drinks onto a trolley.  Another a large tray of chips.  A few others were screaming at the “chef” to produce more cheese burgers.

Very few of us got lucky enough to collect a complete order.  Some were deliberating to complain or just leave counting themselves lucky that  they got at least part of their order.

So why the madness? a busy time?, teething problems of a new system? only occurring in one store?

Well in the interests of Agile science I decided to visit another McDonalds restaurant the week after.  Selfless as I am.

This time ordering a double cheese burger and coke.  Variety is the spice of life after all.

Again chaos ensued my good lady having to ask for the drink several times and in the end given one out of pity rather than a kanban based signal or pull.

So why am I writing this? my frustration at first was, as like most customers who have followed a brand for many years, with the fact that the system had needed to change.  I do not perceive it to be broken so why fix it.

Of course with my trendy Agile hat on I know that we always strive to improve so change is a natural outcome.

I considered the Kanban system that they seemed to be attempting to implement but was saddened by the fact that process seemed to have overtaken the need for a great customer experience.  As a customer you get to observe the whole value stream from the pull (the order request) to the valuable output (brown paper bag full of fatty treasure).

The elements of the order were flying around independently of each other and the coming together at the end seemed to be more luck that judgement.   The drinks trolley never really seemed to reduce.  The fizzy inventory seemed to be creating more waste by the second.  Burger orders were being screamed out all over and i’m sure the lady who ordered the double cheese after me took my burger.  Staff seemed just grateful to satisfy a customer.

Needless to say i haven’t been back to McDonalds since.  Burger King still offer a personal service.  The staff member takes my order and then in the true spirit of kanban and lean undertakes the one piece flow value based activities that ensure my meal arrives in a timely fashion to the quality I expect.  It might not be mass production but it’s a good experience.

I’m just not sure the the burger world is ready for automation, the amount of batching and the low %correct and accurate score of the orders would make a grown Agile evangelist cry.

An article about the new system last year, working well in a well practiced very quiet store and another article from an observer.

See: A great Kanban example in the context of a drive thru

Self service article: Still true as the day it was written

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One thought on “Ronald be not proud

  1. Phill says:

    I had the experience of ordering from one of those automatic machines in the French burger chain Quick. (Mainly to save myself the pain of having to pronounce “Long Bacon” like Michelle of the ‘Allo ‘Allo Resistance.) They seem to have cracked embracing the future, compared to the golden arches.

    In short, it’s the Argos experience with more burgers. You get an order number, which is shouted out by a person under a large collection sign, who hands you your food. There’s minimal queuing, which reduces the order-to-burger time enormously.

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