From self-serve ordering kiosks to delivery apps, restaurants embrace customer-facing technology

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
July 07. 2018 6:18PM
Norman Lombardo of Derry uses the new kiosk on Thursday afternoon at the Brown Avenue McDonald's in Manchester. He used one for the first time recently at a McDonald's in Barre, Vt. (ALLEGRA BOVERMAN/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- McChanges are coming to a McDonald's near you.

Paige Macken ordered vanilla shakes for her two children at the McDonald's on Brown Avenue, but she didn't need to talk with a person.

The Bedford mother used an electronic kiosk that featured pictures and prices.

"It was quick; we could see our order," Macken said during lunch last week.

Then she found out that her food would be delivered to her table. "It's a nice surprise," Macken said while Grace, 12, and Liam, 10, enjoyed lunch.

And if you don't want to leave your house, then six McDonald's restaurants in Greater Manchester recently started offering the option of having your Big Mac delivered to your home or office via Uber Eats.

Many restaurants are upping their game - whether it be with phone apps or delivery. Uber Eats announced last month its first five Manchester restaurants not named McDonald's.

And it's paying off quickly for some eateries.

There are a number of new innovations at McDonald's. (ALLEGRA BOVERMAN/UNION LEADER)

USA Chicken & Biscuit on Elm Street has handled a big bounce in sales - between 200 and 300 delivery orders in the first 12 days customers could order through Uber Eats.

"It's doing good and getting better by the day," said the owner's son, Kareem Qahir. "It's extra revenue. We do $2,000 in sales a week (through Uber Eats)."

Wendy's has partnered with DoorDash to deliver orders in major cities, including Boston. DoorDash's website lists no New Hampshire communities.

Wendy's, during a May 9 presentation for its first-quarter earnings, said delivery service was available to more than 25 percent of its North American locations as of March.

DoorDash's website listed Wendy's, Burger King and Five Guys among its delivery options in parts of Boston.

For the Manchester-area McDonald's, delivery costs $5. Delivery wait time runs 10 to 20 minutes from ordering to delivery, according to Jeremy Hinton, president of The Napoli Group, which owns 31 McDonald's in New Hampshire from Lancaster to Hudson (out of 50-plus in the Granite State).

"We don't make the food until the driver is very close or on-site," Hinton said.

People using delivery won't get promotional prices available at the store, he said.

The Brown Avenue location has had "several customers each day" using Uber Eats, but Hinton expects that to ramp up.

Delivery for McDonald's is limited to four Manchester locations as well as restaurants in Hooksett and Goffstown.

So far, McDonald's restaurant remodel, including adding kiosks and table service, has been rolled out in 2,600 locations globally, including 1,500 in the United States and 12 in New Hampshire.

"We are redefining and reinventing the McDonald's experience," said Angele Busch, McDonald's regional brand reputation manager.

The Napoli Group has renovated nine of its Granite State restaurants so far, including introducing kiosks. Two more, in Concord and Gorham, should be completed this month.

Renovating the dining room, restrooms and installing kiosks cost more than $250,000 at the Brown Avenue location alone, Hinton said. The kiosks there have been operational for about three weeks, and have generated a 10 percent boost in the average check, Hinton said.

Contrary to what one might expect, Hinton said having a worker sometimes helping people at the kiosks as well as providing table delivery has meant hiring an extra person.

Kiosk users can pay by credit card or go to register to pay cash. "If paying with credit card, this is as close as you get to the counter," said Larry Johnston, brand ambassador for The Napoli group, based in Amherst. Drink cups stacked near the kiosks allow customers to get beverages quicker.

Customers also pick up a plastic number embedded with a computer chip to bring to their tables, allowing employees to track their order by zones within the restaurant.

All U.S. McDonald's locations are slated to offer kiosk service by the end of 2019.

Through March, Wendy's has installed kiosks in about 300 restaurants.

Kiosks received cheers and jeers at the Brown Avenue McDonald's.

"I think it's pretty cool. It gives people more time," said Norman Lombardo of Derry. "They don't feel rushed if they have a big line behind them."

But not everybody was a fan.

Customer Arthur Ferretti of Manchester has eaten at the same McDonald's for three decades, but he wanted nothing to do with the kiosks.

"I could care less about it," he said. "I retired for a reason."

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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