McDonald’s CEO Outlines Mobile Ordering Expansion To Drive Visits

Same-store sales struggled in Q4 for McDonald's, but CEO Steve Easterbrook is pinning hopes on the QSR's branded app to drive sales.

McDonald’s same-store sales in the U.S. dipped 1.3 percent in Q4 as the quick serve restaurant chain faced increased competition upscale rivals like Shake Shack, direct competitors like Taco Bell and White Castle, and emerging challenges like on-demand pre-ordering and delivery.

When asked during the company’s Q4 earnings call with analysts what the plan was to reverse that decline, CEO Steve Easterbrook pointed to expanded app usage. In particular, Easterbrook directly related improved customer experience to a broader array of app-based marketing and mobile pay as influencing store traffic and sales.

By the end of Q4, McDonald’s app had 18 million downloads and over 11 million of those are registered users, Easterbrook said.

“The month of December 2016 saw the greatest contribution to sales by the app that we have seen yet and that has been growing month by month by month,” Easterbrook told analysts on Monday.

“It’s still – it’s noticeable now, but not material. So clearly, our ambition is to make that a material number,” Easterbrook continued. “Elsewhere around the world, we are testing different elements through technology that we can then put together.”

McDonald’s video terminals could be connected to beacons and back to consumers’ iPhones for faster ordering.

McDonald’s is currently testing “ordering ahead” via either the internet or through its branded app. Easterbrook also outlined other standard omnichannel offerings, such as a test of curbside check-in, “where if you pull on to the parking lot, you can actually pull up into a dedicated bay where you can just scan your order, we can bring it out to you.”

McDonald’s is also developing more in-restaurant technology, such as the rollout of self-order kiosks, which Easterbrook described as a an opportunity to enhance  customer relationship management and loyalty.

He acknowledged that “there are others who are further ahead than us, but this is one where you got to get it right. It’s better to be right than to be first to market.”

Though he didn’t go into specifics, McDonald’s is “investing a lot of time and effort to best understand what resonates most with customers in terms of appreciating that business and encouraging them more often,” Easterbrook said. “Ultimately, at the moment, we are focusing on the experience side, order, pay, curbside check-in, and just making that experience smoother, easier, more convenient and then we’ll start building reward mechanisms into that over time.”

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David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.