If you’ve noticed something different walking through the doors of the local McDonald’s, you’re not alone.
A smartly dressed greeter welcoming you to the restaurant is among one of the changes being rolled out across the country this year, as the fast-food restaurant continues to evolve its brand.
The Edmonton area was the first to undergo the changes in Canada. The company is aiming to refurbish the majority of the country’s locations in celebration of the fast food chain’s 50th anniversary next year.
St. Albert patrons can now place their orders through a touch screen kiosk, choose from old classics or customize their burger with more than 30 new ingredients including sundried tomato pesto, avocado and blue cheese, and have their meal delivered to their table by serving staff.
“What we’re doing is building on an evolution to our brand that began some time ago,” said Rob Chiasson, owner of all four St. Albert locations.
He said Alberta was a natural place for the company to roll out a concept that has gained popularity in countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland and China, given the chain’s popularity here.
The company’s goal is to have 1,000 of the 1,400 restaurants in Canada transformed by the end of 2016.
Chaisson expressed no reservations about being among the first locations to undergo the transformation, despite it requiring a significant investment on behalf of the franchisee. Each retrofit cost between $200,000 and $250,000. Chiasson owns nine locations in all – six have incorporated the new concept.
He said the changes are in response to wants and needs of customers, namely more selection and enhanced customer service.
The changes have resulted in the creation of three new positions: the guest experience leader, who greets customers as they enter the restaurant, provides assistance ordering at the kiosks and anticipates customer needs, such as bibs and high chairs for the little ones; servers who bring orders out to the customer’s table with the help of electronic table locators; and create-your-own-taste cooks who have a special work station in the kitchen.
In Alberta this will translate to 1,900 jobs. Locally, Chiasson anticipates hiring between 10 to 15 people per location.
In 2014, Chiasson strongly advocated against reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker program arguing that it would exasperate Alberta’s labour shortage.
Although he acknowledged those challenges have not gone away – even with a faltering Albertan economy that has left thousands in the province unemployed – he is confident in the direction the chain is taking.
“In St. Albert it will be challenging; in Edmonton it won’t,” he said about recruitment. “The economy is going to help a little bit, but I think in business you don’t let your environment decide what you’re going to do; you decide what you’re going to do and figure out how you’re going to get there.”