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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Fastfood, gruntwork and tech

With low unemployment and a real increase in the number of catering and hospitality vacancies it appears that tech might be the way to cope with staff shortages. That doesn’t mean people will be left on the wayside but robots may well be handling some of the tedious ‘gruntwork’ in the future. Certainly something has to be done to improve staff retention. With the food and drink sector contributing £121 billion to national Gross Value added it is a serious player.

In the U.S., some burger chains have already piloted a robot called Flippy

This is to combat the staff retention problem. Flippy’s job is to flip burgers, somewhat unsurprisingly and then clean off hot grills. This will be a welcome relief to anyone working at the sharp end of the fast food industry especially as our love affair with fast food appears to be increasing rather than decreasing and more and more staff is required. This is an important development as UK employment levels, for example, have grown by 9% and employs upwards of 4 million people.

McDonalds, another player in the sector has also been mindful of tech developments

Almost nine months ago bought Dynamic Yield, a tech start-up that will assist in improving customer experience but also help to increase revenues. We all know that customer experience is massively important in the food industry and how easy it is these days for toxic word of mouth comments to attract massive attention.

Dynamic Yield may well have been a start-up but it cost the burger chain £232.8million.

It must be said that McDonalds must have a pretty clear plan regarding their future needs and also the importance of future-proofing their pretty traditional offer. Apparently Dynamic Yield will help deliver a drive-thru experience to beat all drive-thru experiences. I mean, what could that be? A car wash and a head massage I wonder? Unfortunately it is a little more prosaic. The tech will take into account the amount of traffic, the weather conditions and what’s been selling well that day. I’m not sure how impressive that sounds but we will have to wait and see.

It is worth noting that McDonalds’ likes to be in the centre of things and perhaps they may well be harbouring ambitions to ape Amazon and become the king of fast food and all that might entail. Yet Dynamic Yield has not been the only tech acquisition for the long established company. They’ve bought Plexure, a mobile software company and McDonald’s will improve its mobile app further than it’s currently doing. Alongside this Apprente became the next on the list of purchases.

Just a few months back the purchase of Apprente seems to signal an express intent of making voice activated technology seminal to the drive-thru customer segment experience. Their CEO will also head up the McD Tech Lab so I wonder whether we can expect cutting edge innovation from a traditional brand.

It seems that McDonald’s won’t be hiring too many burger flippers any time soon.

They will be more than likely to need far more tech experts, engineers and data scientists. I suppose I am not surprised by these developments because McDonald’s is facing competition from a new wave of food outlets focused on a more plant-based, vibrant and health giving offering. Both environmental, ethical and health considerations are much higher on the agenda of Gen X,Y and Z and I think McDonald’s will need to do more than offer tech solutions to stay popular, current and part of a new fast food culture.

In my opinion companies such as Leon are offering much more variety with the focus on healthier alternatives. Therefore if tech could ensure that happens then I’d be all for it. What do you think?

Staff churn is never good for a company’s brand and reputation. Therefore it always pays to invest carefully in your company’s future.

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