At the start of the month I was invited to the Aldwarke Lane McDonald’s restaurant in Rotherham. I was very excited to be invited in-store for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant. I’m a bit of a business nerd and I love finding out about how businesses are run, how they work and who they’re run by. If you’ve ever read my Behind the Biz series then you’ll know this is something I’m really into.
Whenever I’m in a McDonald’s restaurant I’m always intrigued by what’s going on behind the tills. I can’t explain it but it’s always something that has fascinated me. I have read and studied McDonald’s a lot, all throughout my degree.
Upon arriving at the restaurant we were greeted by franchisee, Franco and his right-hand man, Matt. We had a drink and chatted about Franco’s business journey. He started working at one of the stores when he was 16. He has since worked his way up through the company and had a successful career which has taken him all over the world. He now runs 3 stores across his home town of Rotherham.
The stores are often run by locals, which is good to know. It was fantastic to see how passionate Franco and his team were. They truly value their staff, who go through a lot of training. They also like to work closely with the community and organise litter picks, charity events and sponsor 5 local football teams.
You may have noticed that McDonald’s has been under going a new look both in terms of interiors and digitally. If you haven’t, don’t worry, the changes which I’ll be talking you through in this post are being rolled out across all 1,200 UK restaurants.
One of the first things I noticed about the store was the lovely decor. That might sound strange when talking about a fast food establishment but honestly, they’ve done a really good job with it. Everything was clean and shiny, the walls are covered in lovely prints of fruit (or different foods) which are made up of tiny foods. I also noticed that they had Eames chairs by Herman Miller. I’m not sure if they’re originals or inspired by but they look fab. Overall the restaurants now have a much more chic and modern look than previous years.
Next up there are the new self-service kiosks. I’m pretty familiar with these as my local Sheffield branches have already been equipped with them. They help to speed up the ordering process whilst also taking away the pressure of making your meal choices quickly. I was pleased to see that with the touch of a button the screen drops down and can be used by children and wheelchair users. They also have multiple language options available.
Another feature I like is that you can remove anything you don’t like from your order. For example, I can easily remove cheese from my burger which is very handy for anyone with an intolerance or dislike to certain foods. They also have all the calories on the screen so that you can make a truly informed meal choice.
This moves us swiftly onto the topic of table service. Yes, table service in a fast food restaurant. Once you’ve made your order at the kiosk you’ll either move to one side and wait for your takeout order to be completed or you can opt to sit in and go and take a seat. Your meal will arrive at your table once it’s ready. This is particularly handy for families so they can get settled and organised before the food arrives.
I’m used to table service in my local McDonald’s, again my local branches are in full digital swing just like Franco’s Aldwarke branch. If I’ve had a slow start to the morning I’ll stop by on my way to work, order breakfast and then sit answering emails ’til my food arrives. Oh and if you didn’t know, the wifi is free. I’ve made use of this on many occasion now.
On the tables you may notice, or will start to notice that they offer phone charging facilities. The Aldwarke lake restaurant offers both wireless and USB charging stations. I think this is really useful and quite important in this day and age. Getting a little extra battery juice while you enjoy your lunch is very handy, especially when you’re on a busy day out.
There are also dedicated tables covered with iPads. These are used by adults and children for games or reading the latest news stories. I think this is another fantastic addition to McDonald’s and gives people the chance to cut off and relax and for parents to have a little calm while they enjoy their lunch.
After our restaurant tour it was time to check out the kitchen. This was the bit I was really excited about.
We went into the staffroom for a briefing and put our very own hat, apron and badge on. I wish I’d asked to keep the hat. We were shown how meticulously the food is stored, how the drive-through system works and briefed on health and safety in the kitchen.
In the kitchen everything has a process, as you’d imagine. It’s all very organised and the orders arrive into the kitchen digitally so you’ll never be left waiting long for your food.
Despite having a regimented process and everyone having their own roles (which they regularly swap around throughout the day) there’s a real community feel. They work as a team but each have their own roles. The kitchen very clean, as you’d expect. Staff are washing their hands regularly and hair is kept out of the way in nets and caps.
After our tour we washed our hands and had a go at making our very own Big Mac. This is my dad’s standard order from McDonald’s. I however, have never had a Big Mac (’til now). We dropped the buns into the toaster, dressed our burger with the secret sauce, kissing gherkins and cheese and put it all together.
I clearly wasn’t as speedy as the staff but I gave it a good go. It’s quite something to say that the first Big Mac I tried was with my very own hands. You know what? I really enjoyed it and have already ordered it again since.
There’s always been rumours of the food at McDonald’s not being quite what it seems. So, as you can imagine this is a topic that Franco and Matt were passionate about. The burgers are made with 100% British and Irish beef. The chips aka fries are 100% British potatoes. They work closely with their farmers and go out to visit them to ensure everything is to their standards.
I was interested to hear how food habits have changed over the years. Once Franco and Matt had the kiosks installed they started to notice that they were running out of the fruit and veg bags. It turns out that people didn’t know they were an option ’til they could see it on the kiosk screen. This is just one way of noticing how our food habits have changed. It also shows that people didn’t know what McDonald’s offered ’til they had the chance to browse the menu.
Matt also told us that they had multiple vats of Coca Cola years ago but now there are options of coffee, water and their new frozen drinks and there’s just not as much demand for it.
I had a truly fantastic afternoon at the restaurant and as soon as I left I called my friend and told her all about it. I was filled with behind-the-scenes knowledge and I was desperate to share it. I’m so happy to now be sharing this info with you. I hope you’ve learnt something new about McDonald’s today.
Here are some bite-sized chunks of info I think you should know about McDonald’s.
Yes, that’s right a fast food restaurant with table service. This is handy for everyone. It means less standing around in queues and allows families to get settled. You simply order from the kiosk and go and find yourself a table.
You can use the mobile app to put your order together at home and make the order once you arrive in-store. This makes the whole process much quicker, especially if you’re in a rush. It’s also really useful when you’re doing a lunch time order for everyone at work.
There’s entertainment for the littles ones with interactive digital games, a play area and of course, iPads. The iPads are also used by adults for browsing the news in the morning and most likely, playing games too.
Phone charging facilities
I think this is very useful and an essential for most food establishments. We all need to keep our phones charged throughout the day and this is the place to do it. They have both the wireless and USB varieties available.
I’ve been making use of their free wifi quite a lot recently. It’s handy when you want to answer emails in the morning but don’t fancy getting into the office early. I’ve also found this useful when travelling.
Investment in staff
The staff go through a lot of training and there’s a strong company culture. McDonald’s have a wide variety of people working for them and they value everyone. You’ll find students who want to take on flexible work and people who want to work their way through the business, just like Franco and Matt did.
The beef is 100% British and Irish Forequarter and Flank. That goes for the pork too. The chips aka fries are also made with British potatoes. They’ve also been using free range eggs since 2001.
They do not use GMOs in their UK ingredients or products.
Food is freshly prepared with fresh ingredients from the moment you order it. There’s never anything left sitting around.
Optimal cheese temperature
The cheese is kept at an optimal temperature so it’s just right when it goes on top of your burgers. There’s no way they’d put a really cold slice on top of your burger. Everything has been thought about.
The kiosks can be optimised for wheelchair and child access with just the click of a button. They also offer multiple languages.
McDonald’s invest heavily in the community. They sponsor local football teams and organise charity events.
I want to say a massive thank you to Franco, Matt and their team for inviting us down to their restaurant. They really looked after us and I left feeling like I’d had a real insight into the way McDonald’s works. I hope you enjoy this post and learn something new about the biz.
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