Explore the advanced technology within McDonald's Drive Thru
restaurants and uncover its five cutting-edge features.

McDonald's futuristic Drive Thru restaurants and discover its 5 inside-tech

What began as a small drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino, California has grown into an American icon proudly serving 63 million customers every day around the globe. I am talking about none other than the Big M, McDonald’s. While much has changed over the last six decades, Ray Kroc’s original commitment to Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value has endured, making McDonald’s a trusted favorite for over 83 years. The journey to the top has never been easy, but persistence toward perfection and a commitment to achieving excellence have helped them sustain and retain leadership in the worldwide Quick Service Restaurant Business (QSR).

There is a story in every successful business and some decisions they took at the right place at the right time. McDonald’s story goes back to the McDonald's location in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The franchise owner, Dick Widman, noticed that a significant number of his customers were soldiers from a nearby military base. These soldiers often came in uniform, and due to a military regulation; they were not allowed to leave their vehicles while wearing their uniforms.

In response to this unique situation and to better serve the military clientele, Dick Widman came up with the idea of creating a separate window where customers could place their orders and receive their food without having to leave their cars. This innovative approach aimed to provide a faster and more convenient service to customers who were on the go.

McDonald's restaurant kiosk
McDonald's kiosk

The first official McDonald's drive-thru was established in 1975 at a McDonald's restaurant in Sierra Vista. Inspired by its success, McDonald's began to expand the drive-thru concept to other locations. Over time, the drive-thru became a standard feature in McDonald's restaurants worldwide, transforming the way fast food was served and contributing to the brand's convenience and accessibility.

So, a franchise owner's ingenuity and commitment to meeting the specific needs of his customers, particularly the military community in Sierra Vista, traced back the origin of McDonald's drive-thru more than 70 years ago. This customer-focused innovation eventually became a key element of McDonald's service model and a ubiquitous feature in the fast-food industry.

Many McDonald’s Drive thrus now look and feel different, offering new experiences like table service and stylish interiors. These changes were intentional, aimed at enhancing how customers feel. Innovations like self-order kiosks and table service were introduced to improve the overall dining experience. Table service, in particular, provides people with more time to relax, creating a fancier atmosphere. McDonald’s is also exploring new types of restaurants and buildings to add an interesting twist. Their goal is to create happy moments for customers and employees through innovative designs, making sure that the in-person experience remains a top priority.

New & Innovative Drive-Thru Experience for McDonald’s Customers:

According to McDonald’s, approximately 70% of sales in top markets occurred at the Drive-Thru during Covid-19 and this trend continues. Drive-Thrus constitute 2/3 of all restaurants, totalling around 25,000 worldwide. Apparently, it is the major business segment that McDonald’s has consistently revamped for the past 45 years to enhance the lovable experience for their customers. Now, McDonald’s has undergone a total transformation of the Drive-Thrus with Mobile App & Self Order Kiosks for ordering, License Plate Reading when you are near the Drive-Thru, The Order Ahead Lane dedicated for you to drive thru, Conveyor Belt to pick up the food, Dedicated Parking Areas for delivery people, and much more.

Mobile App & Kiosks for Ordering: Imagine being in your vehicle, preordering your food through the mobile app, and by the time you reach near the restaurant, the restaurant team has already begun preparing your order. The restaurant’s app updates, the food and beverage conveyor streamline operations, and a new kitchen format enhances efficiency. You drive thru your designated lane and pick up the order easily. What an experience, isn’t it?

Drive-Thru Kiosks: McDonald's has added fancy ordering machines in their drive-thrus to make things easier and safer. These machines were first thought of as just a backup for when things get busy, but now they're a big part of how McDonald's does business.

mcdonald drive thru-kiosk
self-ordering kiosk

So, when you roll up to the drive-thru, you can just tap on the screen, pick what you want from McDonald's menu, and the machine takes care of the rest. It's quick and easy, even if you want something special. The machine keeps track of everything, like what you added or removed from your order, how much you have to pay, and when you placed the order. These new ordering machines are pretty cool. You can pick your food using a touch screen. And get this—they even remember what you ordered before and suggest similar stuff. They also check the weather and recommend food based on whether it's hot or cold outside.

These ordering machines aren't just about making things hands-free; they're also making McDonald's look really smart. By using these machines, McDonald's is showing that they're good at keeping up with new technology. And the best part? It helps things run smoother when lots of people are ordering at the same time.

So, next time you're at McDonald's drive-thru, check out the cool screen where you can order. It's like a smart friend that knows exactly what you want.

Pick up shelves : McDonald’s customers can place the order at the Kiosks and collect the food from the pickup shelves. The process makes much quicker and the customers could save time compare to a dine in McDonald’s restaurant.

The Order Ahead Lane : A separate Drive-Thru Lane, the Order Ahead Lane allows customers to receive their preordered meals via a food and beverage conveyor. This is a great option for customers who want to place their order ahead of arrival through the McDonald’s app, skipping the traditional Drive-Thru line and receiving their food quickly and conveniently.

Conveyor belt to pick up the food : The most outside-the-box feature being tested is a conveyor belt drive-thru lane where consumers collect their order-ahead purchases. The conveyor belt brings the food to you and you can pick it up from there. It is an amazing experience.

There is also a parking area where the delivery drivers can park their vehicle.

McDonald's aims to ensure it meets the expectations of tech-savvy Generation Z and Generation Alpha. It's not merely about being friendly—it involves providing them with a straightforward, fast, and enjoyable experience. McDonald's is proactively staying ahead by introducing a new type of drive-thru featuring Drive-Thru Kiosks.

This drive-thru transformation isn't just for appearances—it actively contributes to cost savings. The new drive-thru is smaller and occupies less space compared to its global counterparts. It resembles an intelligent restaurant with fewer staff working inside, eliminating the necessity for large dining areas. This not only ensures smooth operations but also results in time and cost savings associated with table cleaning.

McDonald's aspires to lead in adopting new technology and enhancing the fast-food landscape. Through these changes, they aren't merely keeping up with current consumer preferences; they're also anticipating the future of fast food.