At approximately 100 McDonald’s restaurants across the U.K., the customers who walk in can order their meals on a touchscreen, charge their phones at their tables, and use tablets provided by the restaurant to play games, surf the Internet, or check email while they eat.
The touchscreens and tablets are part of “Experience of the Future,” an initiative by the fast food giant’s U.K. division to invest in digital technology, contemporary interiors, and personalized service – and the digital part runs on software provided by Mississauga, Ont.-based mobile device management firm SOTI Inc.
“We seem to be Canada’s best-kept secret when it comes to technology,” says SOTI’s managing director of Europe and South Africa, Nassar Hussain. “The majority of our customers, I would say, use us in what we’d classify as a ‘mission critical’ environment, where… their success depends on the mobility project… and we bring that expertise to the table.”
Founded in 1995, SOTI has long been a leader in the mobile device management market, with satellite offices in the U.K., Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, and India augmenting its Mississauga headquarters, and past customers including such tech luminaries as Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft.
In the case of McDonald’s U.K., SOTI was commissioned to provide the software used by the Samsung Galaxy tablets in the fast food giant’s most future-ready restaurants.
“When McDonald’s looked at mobility, they wanted to enhance their user experience… to have their customers come in, play games, browse social media, and check the latest news,” Hussain says. “You won’t be spending time within the restaurant if you’re not going to enjoy your experience… and I think technology… has helped customers come through the door and actually spend more time within the restaurant.”
According to McDonald’s, the customer feedback from its tablet-equipped locations has been positive, and after a successful trial in 2015, the company is now in the process of rolling out thousands of devices to restaurants across the United Kingdom, Hussain says – though he does not have permission from McDonald’s to say when they’ll be released.
In a statement, Doug Baker, McDonald’s UK’s head of IT restaurant solutions and service, said the tablets would play an important role in the restaurant’s approach to customer service moving forward.
As for why the tablets were tested in the U.K. first rather than the U.S., Hussain says the U.K. was a better test market because it provided a more diverse audience, in addition to its “Experience of the Future” program.
Hussain says that from McDonald’s point of view, the tablets are not just about enhancing the user experience, but also soliciting feedback from people using them.
“In certain airports… you can actually tap if you’ve had a happy, sad, or kind of a grumpy-face experience when you walk through, and I think it’s that kind of feedback that McDonald’s is looking for,” he says. “So they can enhance the entire shopping experience when you’re visiting a McDonald’s restaurant.”