Our CTO Dean Ward shares his learnings from his visit to the McDonald’s global conference in Orlando, USA.

While for many the highlight of a fascinating three days stateside would have been private access to Universal Studios and a show from J-Lo, for me the trip gave me some amazing insights into how technology and design are shaping the future.

It was fascinating to see McDonald’s focus on delivering the ‘Experience of the Future’ and how deeply rooted innovation is in their brand values. They have a real understanding of how crucial it is to leverage technological advances to continually improve every aspect of their business. It’s great that we’re being welcomed in and treated as a thought leadership partner, rather than just a hardware supplier. Being design led, we’re able to proactively develop new products and solutions to fit with McDonald’s brand values and overall company vision.

Held every two years, the conference is a showpiece event for the company and no expense is spared in the delivery – which, it has to be said, was absolutely first class. We’ve been working closely with McDonalds for almost 18 months now within the UK so for Simon Taylor (evoke’s head of customer accounts) and I, it was an invaluable chance to head out to the US and immerse ourselves in their organisational culture.

Almost 20,000 delegates descended on the Orange County Convention centre for the three day conference. McDonald’s understanding of the importance of technology in providing a great experience was immediately apparent. There was a bespoke app and social media platform to keep us informed of the itinerary and it really did seem as though everything had been thought of.

On the Wednesday evening we were treated to a rather special experience. Universal Studios was hired for our exclusive use and we had complete access to all of the attractions. As if that wasn’t enough, the conference was closed on the Thursday by J-Lo performing live! During the day, the central area of the conference played host to McDonald’s corporate staff delivering presentations and demonstrations, with the outer zones occupied by our fellow suppliers – everything from microwaves to burger buns.

In addition to celebrating innovation and best practice, the conference is also a shop window of sorts for franchisees (or ‘owner operators’ as McDonalds term them) from around the world to see the latest technology currently being trialled. Although there are more than 30,000 locations worldwide, only 2,000 or so have the kind of technological innovation that we’re helping to drive at Evoke. So, for the rest of the owner operators, it’s a great chance to see what is in the pipeline and how it can benefit their businesses.

The return on investment of these innovations in technology was continually driven home. With more than 80 per cent of McDonald’s restaurants being franchisee owned – ultimately the bottom line is all important. In addition to improving the customer experience, the data and algorithms that go hand-in-hand with the hardware, allow for massive increases in efficiency and reduction in waste.

It was great to meet the global partners, representatives and franchisees from around the world and establish the relationships we can hopefully build on in years to come. It was also fascinating to see how a global organisation with almost two million employees handles employee engagement from a HR point of view. They get their people to buy into the ethos of delivering a brilliant customer experience, as well as understand that that improvements in technology doesn’t actually mean fewer jobs – but more.

The improved customer experience that results from shorter queues and a better quality of food ultimately translates to more return business. And more business can only be a good thing for staffing levels. Making it faster, making it fresher and making it better – all of these efficiencies are only possible because of technological innovation and data.

In addition to displaying the current technological offering, the conference gave us an invaluable insight into what is in the pipeline for McDonald’s and we came away with exciting internal discussions to have in terms of how we continue to add value with our offering to them. We’re already looking forward to the 2018 conference and I’m excited to see how our relationship develops with McDonald’s over the next two years.

Further reading

Our kiosks supporting McDonald’s ‘Experience of the Future’ in the press recently.