ST. JOSEPH, MO. — In the McDonald’s of the Future, there are bowties and bottomless fries. The first-of-its-kind, 6,500-square-foot restaurant, located in St. Joseph, Mo., opened Aug. 4, boasting a host of unique and interactive features.
“Our focus was to make it modern and inviting and integrate digital technology throughout the entire experience,” Chris Habiger, franchise owner of the restaurant, told Food Business News. “We had a lot of help from McDonald’s and the resources they provide, but a lot of the vision for this was from our organization… (McDonald’s) gave me as an entrepreneur some leeway to be creative.”
Mr. Habiger owns six other area McDonald’s restaurants. This past March, he demolished the previous McDonald’s at this address to build his next-generation location. Some of the components of the new restaurant, deemed the “McDonald’s of the Future,” debuted at the company’s worldwide convention held in April.
|Chris Habiger, franchise owner of the McDonald's of the Future|
“The timing for us was fantastic to take advantage of a lot of the digital elements we were able to incorporate,” Mr. Habiger said.
At the front of the store are several digital kiosks, where customers may order a personalized burger or sandwich with the help of a bowtie-clad employee, known here as a concierge. Toppings not found in a traditional McDonald’s include guacamole, pico de gallo, maple bacon, creamy dijon, sriracha mayonnaise and grilled tomato.
“Grilled tomato — that’s my absolute favorite,” Mr. Habiger said. “We season a fresh sliced tomato with salt and pepper and put in on the grill. It’s fantastic.”
Customers who order a special burger or sandwich are offered unlimited fries — for a limited time.
Additionally, the restaurant features table service in a dining room with sleek wood paneling, trendy decor, couches and armchairs. There’s also a build-your-own dessert bar, serving sundaes and waffle cones or bowls, which are topped with a choice of ice cream, sauces and mix-ins.
In the first week of business, Mr. Habiger said the restaurant is experiencing “growing pains.”
“But we’re able to adapt very quickly,” he added. “And, as well, we have plenty of staff and a quality team. I think the infrastructure we’ve created here allows us to not only serve the guest who’s coming in here for a quick bite or going through the drive-thru but the guest who has a few minutes to spend and wants a customized meal.”
The restaurant has begun hiring 85 additional employees to support the increased throughput.
“We actually have seven order points in the restaurant, which is unique,” he said. “Then we have the two order points through the drive-thru. With nine order points, we’ve found that sometimes we have to throttle those back because we’ll overwhelm the kitchen.
“So those are some growing pains we’re going through right now, but I think that the customer that’s choosing to use the kiosk understands it’ll take a little longer, but they’re in charge of that process. Instead of waiting in a line, they are the ones going through and choosing those elements.”
He expects the success of the McDonald’s of the Future may inspire other franchise owners to adopt similar concepts.
“I haven’t really had anybody say they want to replicate it, but I think as we begin to settle down and show some numbers and some success, I think certainly people will show interest,” he said.
He added: “What we’re so excited about is this restaurant isn’t in L.A. or New York, although they have fantastic McDonald’s there. This is in middle America. This is in St. Joseph, Mo., and it’s modern, eclectic, technology integrated throughout the restaurant, right here in the middle part of the United States.”Click for a slideshow tour of the McDonald’s of the Future.