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Feb 2, 2008 12:18 PM

McDonald's new paradigm-do you like it?

OK, I admit it: I live under a rock. McDonald's has undergone a dramatic change in how it serves food. I was unaware of it until I got a new job and there was a McD's around the corner, for the first time in a few years. Am I the only one who thinks it really sucks?

There is one, at most two cashiers who take your orders. Then, you step a few feet to the left and wait for your order to be called. There is one expeditor who gathers your food from a 2 x 2 foot bin and places it in a bag/tray, and calls your order number. This serving paradigm is identical no matter what franchise location, or how many people are waiting in line. Both the lines and wait for your order to be called is rather substantial for 'fast food'. This corresponds to a business analysis a year or two ago where business analysts were 'appalled' by the long waits now typical at McDonalds. I did not understand this TV report until recently when I started actually eating there.

I was really surprised that McDonalds is now no faster than any of its competitors. It was always someplace that was always super fast and super cheap. I say: dump the new paradigm, dump the 'healthy' junk, and bring back the heat lamps so I can reliably get my meal in 30 seconds. In the old days, the cashier would hand you your change AND your food at the same time in mere seconds, and I miss this. Am I the only one who feels this way?

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  1. I haven't been inside a Mcdonald's in ages, but this surprises me. I remember a few years ago they ran a promotion where large timers were installed, and If it took your order longer than 30 seconds to be completed after paying, your received a coupon for a free Big Mac or chicken sandwich. Strange they were priding themselves on speedy service a few years ago and now they've let it go out the window.
    I am not an impatient diner by any means, nor do I frequent fast food places, but it seems if the patrons of McD's had a lot of time to spare, they would probably be going to a restaurant that did not fall into the fast food category. I know for many, part of the appeal is convenience and stealth, so I can see why people would be disgruntled with consistantly slow service at a FAST food establishment.

    1. McDonalds in Japan (or at least the ones that I went to) has someone taking your order while you are in line, so by the time you get to the counter, your food is waiting for you. Its a really good, quick system!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Mag454

        Now that makes a ton of sense. Just like at Costco where they will pre-scan your cart while you are in line. Kind of makes you wonder why you hardly ever see systems like that.

        1. re: Mag454

          Pity the McD's where I eat lunch is not that smart.
          Hey, you corporate suits, are you paying attention??? Put down the martini and listen up...
          I understand that eliminating a couple of cashiers from the payroll probably adds $50,000 to the bottom line, but at what cost?
          Is there any doubt in your mind as to why you are rapidly losing ground to your competitors? If so, post your question here and I will be more than happy to correct your Ivy-League, MBA opinions...

          1. re: jerry i h

            Even take a clue from Trader Joes. If the lines start getting long they ring the bell to signal more cashiers to come to the front and will keep doing so until all of the registers are open. If you ask me, it's because McD just doesn't care. They know they have your business so they could care less how they treat you.

            1. re: monkuboy

              The limiting factor for McDonald's is assembling/finishing off the food orders not ringing in the order and exchanging cash or taking payment by card. They could open all of their registers and everyone would still be standing around waiting for food.

              I'm not sure how they can do the more customized orders people want and be as fast as they once were at the same time.

        2. You need to move to a state where there are In-N-Outs, they even have someone with a wireless order pad walking the drive through line, taking orders before the cars make it to the squawk box.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ChinoWayne

            That's right, I forgot about In-N-Out. We can see the order taker walking among the cars as we sit there eating our food (normally we go to the ones that have sit-down instead of waiting in a long line of cars that goes out the driveway and down the street). Given the wait at an In-N-Out that is a great idea. And at least the food is worth the wait, unlike being frustrated at a McD ("I waited all this time for THIS???")

            1. re: ChinoWayne

              It can still take a half an hour to get your burger, though. I do much (much) prefer In N Out to McDonald's or any other fast food burger....but there's nothing quick about it if there's anything of a line.

              1. re: ChinoWayne

                The OP here is not talking about the McDonald's drive-through service. And as far as walk-in service is concerned, the otherwise outstanding In-N-Out has objectively become the most tortuously slow fast-food chain on the planet. Check out my post on that exact topic at

                1. re: Arthur

                  Regardless if you think In-N-Out is too slow, the fact is the food is still better, and worth the time and money compared to McPlayland.

                  The point of the drive through comment is that at least In-N-Out tries to do something positive to respond to the wait times. I'd rather wait a few minutes for my burger to be cooked to order rather than eat some factory crap that has been sitting under a heat lamp.

                  1. re: ChinoWayne

                    "I'd rather wait a few minutes for my burger to be cooked to order rather than eat some factory crap that has been sitting under a heat lamp." I couldn't agree more. But from what I've seen as a frequent customer at numerous locations, the notion you've presented that "at least In-N-Out tries to do something positive to respond to the wait times" is baseless and downright false as far as its notoriously slow dine-in service is concerned.

              2. A very busy McDonalds near me was recently torn down and rebuilt, partly to update it and partly to improve traffic flow in and out of the parking lot.

                The previous layout had at least 5 cash registers along the counter. The new McDs has two and the counter/ordering area is rather small. I imagine this location gets very busy during certain parts of the day - I'd like to see them install a roped-off area for the line so only one line forms (like at a bank). Otherwise, you'd have two long lines in front of each of the two registers which would interfere with customers getting condiments and drinks, not too mention the hassle of trying to decide which line to join. It is possible that this location does a robust drive-thru business when compared to counter service, so the counter was downsized to reflect that. We were there at 5PM on a Sunday and didn't notice any substantial lag time in receiving our order. Lot's of families were present at the same time, ordering and things seemed to flow smoothly. We chose a booth right by the counter so i observed the lines moving right along.

                The other thing new is the attractive pendant lighting, nice upscale tile flooring and very comfortable, cushioned booths. Also the play area was located far away from the main dining area. We appreciated that as we stopped in for a very quick bite and didn't want our daughter to be tempted by the slides.

                I hadn't been to a McDs in well over a year; and was pleasantly surprised how comfortable and attractively decorated this particular one was;it was a nice change from the older, typical McDs still around.

                2 Replies
                1. re: swissgirl

                  Sounds nice. Care to reveal the exact address of this McD's with high-tech decor and no lines at 12:08pm during the Tuesday lunch rush?

                  What you describe is sort of typical of the current corporate malaise. The $$$ for the Osarm/Sylvania consultant and the friend of a friend of a friend connection to high quality Hispanic floor tiles would have been better spent on a couple of extra cashiers and microwave techs.

                  Nothing personal, but I am about to violate a personal code of behavoir when it comes to my BB/Blogging. I am reseaonably sure that Ray Croc is rolling over in his grave when viewing the current corporate state of his company. I remember when he first introduced his new idea in the early 70's in LA during a speech/event/rally (it was so long ago, I am no longer sure exactly what it was, but I remember the free samples, and the promise of a hot lunch for under a $1 in the same time it takes for the cashier to make change). I wonder how many of the current BOARD OF DIRECTORS can say the same thing.

                  Now, I am reasonably sure that I have the attention of the green eye-shades at McD's. If you have anything to say to these people, perhaps you should get it off your chest (OK, this cliche goes back a few decades, but so do I, so give me a break...) and post it here.

                  Hurrah!!! for the portobello burger...

                  1. re: jerry i h

                    Here in Canada, we have a chain called Harvey's where they don't even start to cook your burger before you order it, and it still takes less than five minutes to get a piping hot meal. $3.99 for a drink, burger, and your choice of side. McD's is $5.27 for a Big Mac combo - a pre-fab burger, overly salted fries, and a drink. Guess where I go?

                2. I rarely go into McD's any more due to their messed-up queueing system. I think they realize that 80% of their sales are drive-through and they cater to that market. Seems like I get my food faster when I'm behind the wheel.
                  And as someone whose first two jobs were with McDonald's, it hurts my soul to observe all the "short-cuts" they now use in the grill area rather than really GRILL the food, so they can hire less-skilled workers who can't even produce a special order correctly.