McDonald’s Helps American FnB Industry Serve Up Digital Kiosks

Retail experts weigh in on why the digital revolution is stalling in the food and beverage industry, namely with kiosks in brick and mortar stores


Here’s some food for thought. The food and beverage industry may serve up deliciously greasy fast food for New Yorkers always on the go like myself, but when it comes to adopting the latest and greatest technologies in marketing, they’re slow as molasses (I think I’ve exhausted my food puns).

What’s interesting about the restaurant business, is it’s a highly agile marketing organization but in the traditional mode,” admits Bob Kraut, the former CMO of Papa John’s and the current EVP/CMO of Captain D’s. “It’s just that their apparatus hasn’t adapted to a digital world yet.”

Why am I all in a tizzy about this issue? Well, this past fall I got the opportunity to travel to South Korea, and while there I pretty much ate my way through Seoul. One thing I noticed, besides the weight gain, was that the model for many of the retailers was exceedingly digital friendly. Case in point: Digital kiosks. They were in a plethora of the brick and mortar stores I visited. Even a quick stop for a taste of home at a McDonald’s proved more high tech than what I’m used to seeing. Besides the usual counter services are digital kiosk stands, allowing you to place every customisable order you could ever want (extra pickles and bacon on that Big Mac? No problem!).

 Yes, it’s true NYC has dabbled in the idea of digital kiosks with one or two installing the equipment, but my issue is every single one I saw in Korea had them present at the front. Talking to the locals, I was told it’s commonplace to have them in most restaurants. So it got me thinking, where’s the beef back home in America? Why can’t we provide this wonderfully efficient piece of marketing technology?

  “It’s the same in France with click and collect where people collect groceries in store but not so much [in the U.S],” explains Neil Ackerman, the eCommerce Director for Mondelez International. “I’d say we haven’t hit the chasm yet. The data demonstrates that every industry starts at 1 to 2% of sales and then what happens is it hits a chasm and all of a sudden it hits 5%, 6%, 7% and it will happen here too!Everyone always says, ‘Oh, what’s the problem?’ It’s not a problem. It’s time.”

And the time may be soon! McDonald’s announced at the end of 2016 that it plans to roll our digital self serve kiosks at all of its 14,000 U.S. stores. In fact, some of the executives we spoke with at the NG Retail summit last year say they’re ready to help lead the way and embrace some new digital platforms in their American brick and mortar locations as well.

“We’re changing our point of sales system to a POS provider,” Solomon Choi, CEO of the frozen yogurt company 16 Handles, tells us. “We’ve chosen one that will allow flexibility because you have tech companies focused on software and how we can affect the customer with their needs. I told this POS company that the phase 2 will be self-serve kiosks with the mobile cash credit checkout.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one anxious to have my cake and eat it too. When do experts think some of the bigger brands in the food and beverage industry will jump on the digital bandwagon?

“Well, it can’t happen soon enough,” admitted Kraut.

“Do I think the food and beverage industry be bought online and digitally?” Ackerman tells me. “YES! When? In the next 5 years. How much? Between 5 to 10%. How do I know? Because the data says so and it’s happened in every other industry and I’m confident it will happen in the here too.”

Bon Appetit!