McDonald's, Chipotle speed up service

Several quick-service restaurant chains are finding new ways to ramp up sales during busy hours.

By Benzinga Aug 30, 2012 6:05PM
A sign outside the fast-food chain McDonaldBy Katey Stapleton

Recognizing that no one wants to stand in line, particularly for "fast" food, McDonald's (MCD) and other rivals are adapting new technologies to speed service along.

As the economy improves, fast-food chains have begun spending on new ways to cut the wait short, according to The Wall Street Journal. Along with shaving minutes off of order fulfillment during breakfast, lunch and dinner, the companies are beefing up employee hours to provide more hands in the kitchen.

"How many people we have on the floor during those peak hours and where are they positioned is very important to driving more transactions," McDonald's chief financial officer Peter Bensen said on a recent conference call.

But that's not all. McDonald's hopes to flip its underperforming sales trends and regain investor confidence by going the extra mile in upcoming quarters.

"MCD could attack underperforming sales trends with a redirected marketing strategy to highlight value leadership and reintroduction of 'core' product innovation," Oppenheimer noted following a meeting with McDonald's management.

The golden arches may be looking to take a page out of Chipotle Mexican Grill's (CMG) book, as the restaurant chain's second-quarter traffic growth reached 3.4% -- a strong number in analysts' opinion. Although the company's speed is undoubtedly improving, (Chipotle beat its 2007 record last quarter by serving six additional lunches per day), diners have still found it difficult to move through the buffet-style line at the speed they crave.

Chipotle currently trades around $290 -- down approximately 14% this year. The restaurant's management knows that the company is capable of much more. Co-CEO Monty Moran told The Wall Street Journal that there are still long lines every day and people often leave because of it.

McDonald's, Starbucks and Chipotle are undoubtedly on a mission to increase profits in similar ways, but Yum Brands (YUM) has chosen to take a different route. Pizza Hut, one of the company's three popular concepts, is set to open smaller delivery locations as a part of Yum's effort to accelerate unit openings from 500 per year to 1,000 annually over the next five years.

Regardless of the tactics being used, the quick-paced restaurant race is definitely on. McDonald's closed Thursday at $88.70, nearly unchanged from Wednesday's close. Yum Brands closed at $63.36, down nearly 1%.

More from Benzinga

people who say that a 3 minute wait is to long and isn't fast enough are freaking high and need to slow down....people like you are the ones who cut each other off in traffic and kill pedestrians riding bikes....i recently visited a mcd's and there was a woman who waited literally 1 minute to get the fat in her gut....and demanded her money back cause they took to long to give her that edible cancer
Aug 30, 2012 6:52PM
Fast food for sure.....most of the time so fast at the drive thru THAT THE ORDER IS WRONG!!!!!!
Aug 30, 2012 7:20PM
I can tell you from my experience as a manager of McDonalds that the most frustrating thing about the job is not having enough employees scheduled to handle the business especially when 1/3 of your staff decides they would rather hang out at the pool than come into work.
Aug 31, 2012 9:45AM
No matter what you call it and say how great it is, Crap is Crap. I remember when Mc Ds was really great but that was in the days of quality counts. I no longer eat at fast food places, haven't for years. With all this processed meats, cheese, and (soured pickles?) where the heck is the real food in this country anymore? I feel sorry for todays youth they are served Crap in a cup and they call it a Milkshake? They should sued for false advertisement. Real meat in thet Burger? another law suite more false advertisement.
Aug 31, 2012 1:13AM
I used to be a shift manager at McDonalds. All the upper management and district managers ever cared about was clipping numbers so they could get their bonuses. What they did never actually cut times though, so it was all a big cheat in order to make the store look better to the managers watching every now and then from afar. Of course, when the managers actually came in, the store would miraculously be run how it should. Towards the end, there were sensors at checkpoints in the drive thru so cars were timed from the moment they ordered until they got their food and pulled away. 
In addition, upper managers were too preoccupied cutting labor percentages ( hours of paid labor to workers vs. store profits) to actually have enough people to properly run a store. Our goal was around 15% labor, which meant only 15% of our profits for the hour were being paid to employees and the remaining 85% was kept for the company etc. Our store made roughly $700 an hour, meaning only $105 was paid to the entirety of the workers. 
Until they stop being preoccupied with profits and actually staffing enough people and enough QUALITY people on their floors, McDonalds will never change. The big wigs seem too oblivious to see the problems are being masked right before their eyes when they walk into their stores.  
Its a giant joke. 
Aug 31, 2012 9:53AM
Faster is not better.  There is nothing more unappetizing than seeing an employee (usually sporting very unattractive piercings) pull your poor excuse for a hamburger from a warming bin.  Yukkers.  I am not a big fast food eater I prefer Fazolis or for a burger Dairy Queen or Steak and Shake where you know that they are cooking your food.  I know people are in a hurry but if McDonalds would go back to cooking their food as they go they may find their business pick up.  It is not the healthiest, but at least it could taste good.  The quality is in the dumper I worked at McDonalds as a teen when they used to cook their burgers all day long and you weeded out the old if they did not sell   But there was nothing better than getting a fresh fresh sandwich.  That does not happen now.  And what in the hell is with all these postings about dates?  Is anybody else curious about this?  Weird and creepy.
making fast food faster and fat Americans fatter :)
Aug 30, 2012 7:55PM

Speed is great, but accuracy is better.  It does no good to be fast if you can't get the order right.  There is probably a finite limit to how fast the food is served vs. if the order is correct.  This might, perhaps, require a separate cooking line for the drive-up vs. the walk-in customers.  I have often been virtually ignored as a walk-in customer when the drive up is backed up.  People at the drive up should have their order in mind before they pull up to it.  Also, as speed goes up, quality is likely to decline.


On another note, I rarely eat at McDonald's, but when I do, I only buy from the dollar menu.  Same taste, but much cheaper.  I realize, however, that this mindset does not optimize profits for McDonald's, but I have my own economies to consider.

Aug 30, 2012 7:08PM
Aug 30, 2012 11:22PM
when you don't pay employees, you don't get excellent service or quality food!
Aug 31, 2012 12:08AM
Wish McDonalds would offer a yesterday type of McDonalds when you could buy a hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, malt or shake, and pop.  That's it.  The other requirement is that the burgers are made fresh all day.  None of this cook them ahead, put them in a drawer and warm em up for the customer.  another requirement would be that fries are made from fresh potatoes, peel them, blanch them, and fry them on site like they used to do.  Young people don't know how great the burgers at McDonalds used to be.  All hamburger buns were toasted.  Bet you didn't know that.  Comparing a burger from McDonalds today to one from 1959 is like comparing store bought white bread to fresh from the oven bread your grandmother made.  Like most fast food chains McDonalds has forgot the fact that they are a hamburger stand.  If I want Chicken, I go to Col Sanders Kentucky fried Chicken, for fish I go to Long John Silvers.  Remember the old saying, Jack of all trades, master of none.  Just make the burger forget the rest.
Aug 30, 2012 9:31PM
Here's fast food for you. Pack your own friggin' lunch and save some money, time, and your heart also.
Aug 30, 2012 11:32PM

People, this is America! Land of the free! Instead of continuing to complain about the same thing, just stop visiting McD! Please do not come through the drive through and PLEASE stay out of the Lobby because I dont want to see your ugly unsatisfied american face! (I am White BTW) You say you are being poisoned? Well you are poisoning yourself because you keep coming back for that $1 McDouble and McChicken OVER AND OVER AGAIN! McDonalds offers a competitive pay and employs MANY of THOUSANDS of people all over the world to SERVE YOU! Show the employees more respect and maybe your order will come out correct! Unappreciative Freaks, You want to complain about service being slow but you are the ones that want to be difficult and cant be satisfied with how the food is already made! There are highly paid chefs that come up with the menu you all complain about and McD has done so much to offer more options that cater to the dumb people that can never be satisfied! Now McD wants to IMPROVE your experience that you already so deeply hate and you just keep ranting about your bad experiences...TYPICAL! No wonder so many people in this world hate Americans!

Aug 30, 2012 9:49PM

The modern Mcdonalds reasturant is slow by design. Not counting the driveup window, unless there's  a rush of customers say from a bus you will almost never find more than one register open. And  then in the kitchen  there is rarely more than one person preparing burgers. That same person is usually the one filling chicken orders too. So by design even if they open more registers can can only serve one customer at a time no matter how busy they may be.   They need to return to the old way of doing things. A real grill  and burgers pre-made and ready to serve. Then open more registers so the customers get in and out quicker. The average McDonalds in the late 70's and early 80's Could serve more customers at a faster pace with a smaller staff than any of them tend to have today.  Which goes to show that just because you can find new ways of doing things,  it does not mean the new way is better. Often times as in this case the old way was clearly the better  And thats without even stating that the food back then was fresher and and because it was cooked at the premisis and not just reheated it tasted better too.

Aug 31, 2012 9:17AM

McDonalds needs to go back to quality standards.  I can't remember the last time I got a burger that was hot enough to melt the cheese.  The food is disgusting.  Buns taste like sawdust, meat is like cardboard and barely warm.  Breakfast is worse yet.  Frozen pancakes, eggs that look like the size of a quail egg, muffins that taste like crap.  The only thing McDonalds is fucused on are the McCrappie drinks that have huge profit margins.  I worked for McDonalds in the '70's and we would have been fired for serving the crap they serve today.

Aug 31, 2012 7:26AM
More people on the floor during peak hours? I'm just a carpenter and I thought of that years ago. Now, if only Wal-mart would follow suit...
Aug 30, 2012 7:48PM
Faster fast food = Fatter fat people
Aug 31, 2012 2:32AM

Interesting story:


I knew a manager at a MCD's back in the 90's. he was FIRED for giving out left over food to the homeless 5 minutes after closing instead of throwing it out.


That's why I never eat their garbage.

Aug 31, 2012 12:48AM
Last time I stopped at McDonalds the service seemed automated with the clerk punching in all the information and I did not have much choice in making any changes.  The order came quickly but the taste, texture and look of the meal made me think it came out of a microwave after being made last month in some factory in Mexico. 
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