Sell more stuff: McDonald's Wants To Increase Service Speed And Boost Traffic

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 4/16/2019

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  Paul Schlossberg
The NACS (National Association for Convenience Stores) Media Daily posted this headline recently – "McDonald's Focuses on Operations." That's no surprise if you think about the 14,000-plus restaurants under the McDonald's banner in the U.S. Operating efficiently and effectively is critical for an organization of that size and scope.
The sub-headline explains why this is something you need to be well aware of -- "The company is looking to increase service speed and boost traffic." How often do you think about speeding up service at the locations you serve? What have you done lately to increase traffic at your micromarkets and vending sites?
Data from McDonald's 2018 performance was highlighted with one very disappointing statistic -- "a 2.2% drop in traffic." According to Kevin Ozan, McDonald's chief financial officer, "One of the things you'll see in 2019 is a big focus on what we call just running better restaurants." Apparently their 2.5% increase in same-store sales in 2018 was largely derived from price increases while traffic decreased.
McDonald's has, in recent years, made a lot of progress in what they offer to their customers. Ozan added "…(McDonald's) introduced all-day breakfast, put in fresh beef, put in some premium products like the signature-crafted sandwiches that take a little bit longer to make -- some of the complexity we've added into the business has now created slower drive-thru times."
The drive-thru issue is really important for McDonald's. A Reuters report in March 2017 noted that drive-thru sales "…account for about 70% of its U.S. business." The more significant words in that report followed "as the fast-food chain looks to woo back diners." So, in early 2017, McDonald's was focused on speeding up drive-thru operations. Here we are early in 2019 and McDonald's continues to work on the 'how to' of improving drive-thru operations.
Last October, QSR magazine published the 2018 QSR Drive-Thru Study. It has been a feature from QSR for the past 15 years. It addresses a long list of factors in the research study which generates the report and its supporting data. A few of the key indicators are:
(a) Ease of entering the drive-thru lane

(b) The presence of order accuracy boards

(c) Order accuracy

(d) Speed of service   
In the 2018 report, Burger King was rated best for speed of service -- at 193.1 seconds -- just over three minutes. About seven seconds behind was Dunkin' Donuts at 200.74 seconds. For order accuracy Chick-fil-A was No. 1 at 97.3% and Arby's was No. 2 at 95.2%. On these two key measures McDonald's tracked at 273.29 seconds (more than four minutes) for speed of service and at 92.9% for order accuracy.
You might gain some interesting and useful insights from the QSR Drive-Thru Study. If you understand the key measures they use in their industry, you might be able to bring some new thinking to the way you run your business.
We've said this many times. Get a stopwatch or use the timer on your smartphone to time shoppers at your location from the time they walk up to your equipment until they walk away with their completed order. You might be extremely surprised at how long it takes for a shopper to complete a multiple-item purchase at one of your micromarkets or vending sites.    
You probably noticed that we didn't get into the subject of how to boost traffic. Let's save it for another day.
Stay focused on speed of service and other critical operations measures. If you can operate "better restaurants" (or stores), you will be making progress on the path to selling more stuff.

» Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at or (972) 877-2972 or