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Contact-less – Retail Insider


Drive-thrus haven’t played a particularly big part in my life – perhaps because I’ve never owned a car even though I passed my driving test decades ago – but it’s clear they have become increasingly popular in the UK since they crossed the pond.

Drive-thrus are a mainstay of automobile-loving, fast food-guzzling
American society. Their place in the country’s psyche will be further cemented
after US president Donald Trump asked the country’s major restaurant chains,
including Domino’s, Subway, Wendy’s and McDonald’s, to keep their drive-thrus
open while closing seated areas.

McDonald’s is adopting a similar strategy in the UK and Ireland by
keeping its drive-thrus open while removing the dine-in option. The company is
also providing takeaway options from within its stores or via Just Eat and
UberEats. The objective is to cut interactions between people to a minimum
during the order, pay and consume stages.

A growing number of operators including Pret A Manger, Dishoom and Grind
are also closing dine-in propositions and switching to a combination of
takeaway, click and collect, and home delivery. 

Such a process-driven scenario sits incredibly well with McDonald’s as
it has been working hard in recent years to remove points of interaction – also
known as friction – from its restaurants so it can process orders more
efficiently and ultimately make its business more cost effective. 

An integral part of this has been the introduction of kiosks into its
outlets, which will play a major part in servicing customers during the
coronavirus crisis. Kiosks reduce interactions with serving staff including the
often clunky payment element, which has become one of the worrying aspects for
many businesses as physical cash is seen as a conduit for spreading the virus.
The solution for many businesses in recent days has been to ban or at least
discourage its use.

Even before the virus hit our lives, kiosks were accounting for serious
levels of McDonald’s sales. Its restaurants in Roadchef motorway service stations
generate a hefty 60% of sales. Roadchef chief executive Mark Fox has said the
only people who don’t use them are younger people who have no choice but to use
cash because they don’t own a payment card.

The eradication of cash – and the onerous charges involved in its
handling – haven’t been the only upside to McDonald’s installation of kiosks in
its restaurants. They are a terrific generator of extra sales and Fox points to
kiosk-based breakfast orders, where up to 25% of customers upgrade their regular
menu item – often the additions are so hefty the combination doesn’t fit in the
regular paper wrapper! This compares with a lesser 10% to 15% of upgrades at
the counters.

In the UK we can’t begin to comprehend the long-term ramifications from coronavirus but, with kiosks and drive-thrus playing an increasingly important role in the UK’s foodservice industry during the crisis, we could come out the other end of this with a drop in social interactions reduced and delivery even more ingrained. We could, of course, go completely the other way and revel in a return to embracing physical interaction! 

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider 

This piece was originally published on Propel Info where Glynn Davis writes a regular Friday opinion piece. Retail Insider would like to thank Propel for allowing the reproduction of this column.



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