Interview: McDonald's UK IT director Mark Fabes

By Stuart Sumner
08 Jun 2011 View Comments
McDonald's Mark Fabes

IT Leaders logoFast food giant McDonald’s likes to think of itself as a fun place to eat, but when it comes to using the latest technology it doesn’t clown around.

Further reading

McDonald’s was first among its peers to introduce free Wi-Fi in 2007, and it’s at the forefront again with contactless payment technology.

“Every McDonald’s restaurant in the UK is now contactless-capable,” says UK IT director Mark Fabes. “We wanted to look at ways to take advantage of the ever-changing consumer landscape. With more smart devices out in the marketplace and their capability ever-increasing, we’re aware that contactless and near-field communications capability [NFC] on smartphones is not far away.”

The contactless payment project was completed on 25 March. Besides speeding up the payment process for customers, the technology allows McDonald’s to implement new customer loyalty strategies. However, Fabes acknowledges that few consumers currently have cards or phones with NFC capability.

“While we understand that the number of contactless cards in circulation at the moment is very low, we recognise that very quickly NFC capability will be in many consumers’ hands.”

He adds that when more consumers are NFC-capable, it could prove a driver for sales.

“We believe this is going to help drive footfall into our restaurants.”

In a further change to the ordering and payment process at McDonald’s, the firm announced in May that it will be rolling out touch-screen ordering at all its outlets in Europe. The idea is to improve the customer experience, but an important side benefit is the additional data McDonald’s will generate on customers’ ordering preferences. And that’s where business intelligence (BI) comes in.

Business intelligence

McDonald’s uses an underlying Oracle database with a MicroStrategy toolset across the top for its business intelligence needs. While some organisations limit BI to the boardroom, at McDonald’s it’s used at all levels – from senior executive through to operational consultants in the field to the franchisees themselves.

“It gives us a clear and granular view of business performance and allows us to make decisions quickly. It helps us understand how successful our promotional activity is and analyse the demographics of the business. We can react if we’re seeing a difference around a product that’s selling better in one area than another.”

The use of BI also helps the firm decide which promotional campaigns to run, and when.

“We do a fair amount of promotional activity in terms of different customer favourites that we bring back. With the use of BI we can clearly understand how those promotional products perform at different times of the year, and across different areas. It helps to determine whether we rerun those promotions. It’s only through that level of insight we receive from BI that we can make that call.”

And the firm’s BI tools also help individual restaurant managers understand their own performance and how to improve it.

“We have a lot of field-based personnel who are responsible for managing the performance of restaurants. It’s this sort of business intelligence – including customers’ satisfaction scores and the performance of various products – that allows them to make decisions.”

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