Digitalization impacts how we access and interact with food: McDonald’s wants to run pilot projects on digital ordering. Google and many other companies are organizing digital breakfasts and coffee breaks.

Not everything gets digitized. Food is something that will stay analog, at least for the time being. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll find a way to feed our stomachs digital nutrition, but so far, that’s out of the question. However, what does get increasingly digitized is how we access food and social interaction while we are eating.

Aglaë Strachwitz, Managing Director of McDonald’s Switzerland, touched on this at this year’s Swiss Agro Forum. She also showed how digitalization at McDonald’s works and what’s in the oven for the future. The topic at the forum in Bern was  “Analog, digital, hybrid – communicating interactively.”

Digital Ordering

McDonald’s currently runs 173 restaurants in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The plan is to increase that number to 200 in the future. The company wants to offer customers more digital channels when ordering food. That includes orders at the counter, at ordering terminals, home delivery, and in the McDrive and via “myOrder” by app.

Licensees run about 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants in Switzerland and Lichtenstein. McDonald’s wants to work with those licensees to improve order and payment processes and bring digitization into those workflows. “We want to communicate with licensees on an equal footing and see for ourselves how the restaurants work,” Strachwitz said.

Transitioning to digital channels comes at a risk, as it’s unclear how customers will adopt those channels. That’s why McDonald’s wants to start pilots first to gather data and experience. The ten percent of restaurants run by McDonald’s themselves will function as “test labs” for the digital ordering methods. That reduces the risks to the licensees.

The digital channels will be tested in different ways, such as in restaurants and online surveys among customers. There will also be country-specific differences. For example, in Switzerland, the McRaclette regularly appears on the menu. In Portugal, McDonald’s sells soup. They don’t see a need for digital ordering with soup.

Digital team events

It’s not only McDonald’s that brings digitization to food. Urs Schollenberger, Enterprise Sales Manager Google Cloud, explained how many of Google’s employee benefits, such as free breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, were suddenly eliminated during the corona pandemic. Google countered this with virtual coffee chats and other online events. With such events, employees may not be able to order food digitally, but the social component of the eating experience gets digitized.

Now that the pandemic is over, much of that will surely move back to face-to-face interaction. But still, why not keep the digital coffee break or digital breakfast for international teams? Few studies have been conducted if such events positively impact team building and productivity. But if it worked during the pandemic, it might also provide benefits after that.

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