I have seen the future…

… and it is dull and sterile.

Our local McDonald’s has had quite a challenging couple of years. This particular location has been there for decades. A few years ago, the last building was closed due to mold issues. Unable to resolve them, either the corporation or the franchisee decided to tear it down and build a brand new building. Months later, it opened with the new design, blending kiosks with a single register behind the counter.

Throughout all of this, this location struggled to turn customers around in a timely manner and had a reputation for always taking longer than expected. After being open just a few months, the 24 hour location closed a couple times, and rumors swirled about staffing issues. Then unexpectedly, near the holiday season last year it closed again for additional renovations. I heard new rumors about the dining room switching to a kiosk-only option. I wondered what that would look like, but wasn’t in any hurry to find out.

Recently I decided to grab a quick breakfast on my way to work and took a gamble on a Sunday morning run. I do enjoy their steak breakfast burritos so a 2-for-$4 promotion seemed like a good deal. I approached the property, noted the long drive thru lines, and opted to go inside. This is what greeted me.

The very first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. No one said, “Welcome to McDonald’s.” The sounds of the kitchen were distant and muffled. The overall energy was subdued and foreign. It felt dark and stark and uninviting.

The kiosk is easy enough to use, although I’ve learned from past experiences that these things can’t anticipate all the possible special requests a patron may have. Also, I’m not sure how I would get a real person’s attention if I needed something I couldn’t get from the kiosk. One employee came in and out of the back to clean the dining room, and a couple more brought the orders out from the back as they were completed. It felt strange on several levels.

This design feels offputting. It’s impersonal. It’s very transactional. The closed off kitchen does not inspire confidence because I cannot see the cleanliness of the line or the bustling of employees. Open kitchens are a hallmark of quality. This feels cheaper than usual. The lack of large menu board is very off-brand and the words “Delicious Burger” are meaningless to me. If this is the future, I’m not looking forward to it.

Since I was taking my food to go, once I was in my car the experience was consistent with my previous McD’s history. So the end result may have been the same, but getting there was new and different in all the wrong ways. I would end here with “Enjoy”, but I’m not confident anyone would.

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