McDonald’s ‘Create Your Taste’ Borrows from C-Stores’ Playbook

By Jennifer Hoffman

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QuikTrip, Sheetz, Rutter’s, Wawa. All of these convenience store chains have cult-like food followings, and all of them have something important in common: Customers order through touch-screen kiosks.

Today’s customers, especially Millennials, love customization. Ordering by touch-screen presents an opportunity to express their individuality. Even non-Millennials appreciate touch-screen technology. From smartphones and tablets to the dashboard in our cars, we’ve grown accustomed to this convenience. C-stores have been leading the way to introduce touch screens into the retail space, and they’ve done so with great success.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that McDonald’s, a brand that has at times struggled to find its footing in the 21st century, is taking a page out of c-stores’ playbook. McDonald’s is expanding its “Create Your Taste” (CYT) across the country. The concept lets guests design their own burger or sandwich at a touch-screen kiosk, or a regular counter. Our local San Francisco market is seeing the expansion of this concept. Two locations that offer CYT are already open, and a third is expected this spring.

Delivering on the Next-Level Promise

CYT is an opportunity for McDonald’s to compete not only with convenience stores, but also with its biggest QSR competitor, Burger King. For years, Burger King touted the customizability of its menu items. By making a serious move into self-ordering kiosks, McDonald’s could take customization to the next level.

But by promising that next-level experience, McDonald’s has to deliver on next-level quality. A customizable burger costs an average of $6, so it’s crucial that the food is better than dollar-menu fare. For instance, if a customer orders a toasted artisan roll, it should be freshly toasted. Toppings like jalapeno peppers, guacamole, and grilled mushrooms need to be well-stocked if offered. Employees may need training on the quality and quantity of the new ingredients. This calls to mind an experience I had at a QSR (not McDonald’s) where fresh basil was applied liberally like it was shredded lettuce; the sandwich was inedible.

Premium ingredients applied to classic recipes and delivered in a timely fashion through new technology can be a tall order to execute. That’s why McDonald’s is taking its time to roll out CYT. It’s currently available throughout Australia, and look for all of the McDonald’s in the state of Florida and Manhattan to be CYT locations by the end of the year. The paced rollout matches the brand’s new approach to the customer experience: Slow down, get it right, and enjoy the experience! 

See Also

The Secret Sauce to Fast Casual Restaurants’ Success
McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast: A Glimmer of Hope in Uphill Battle
Restaurant Operations Lessons from In-N-Out Burger

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