From after-school snacks to cravings for a night out, London’s many McDonald’s restaurants have seen it all and catered for it all. However, while over 200 locations may be the go-to for easy, cheap and tasty meals, Londoners who have joined the popular chain at peak times know the one big downside to a visit: huge queues .
However, crowded queues may soon be a thing of the past at McDonald’s. As the MEN reported, the fast-food giant recently announced a major change that is expected to reduce queues at the majority of its branches, with an unusual new layout unveiled across 800 stores. Those who pay by card and cash will be completely separated, the latter being invited to pay in “customer experience pods” equipped with a cash register while the former will now be the only ones able to use the touch screens.
But while most renovations will take place gradually over the next four years, London is actually home to two of the three restaurants that have already been upgraded, in Bow in east London and Peckham in south London. On behalf of curious Londoners everywhere, I went to see the Bow Flyover restaurant for myself and although I was very confused about a new feature, I managed to get my order in just two minutes.
READ MORE: ‘Tried Rihanna and Stormzy’s favorite takeaways in London and Rihanna’s takeaway was delicious’
East London’s refurbished McDonald’s is on Payne Road, a short walk from Bow Church DLR station. The uniquely shaped squat hut and iconic golden arches were visible beside the bump in the road as I walked along Bow Road. As I approached, I noticed a series of cars meandering down the left side, while a handful of delivery drivers from Just eat and Uber eat s milled in and out of a door on the right of what appeared to be a separate section.
I pushed open the main glass doors to the left. Inside, things were clean and bright, and the interior largely neutral tones and heavy wood, interrupted by occasional splashes of yellow (wall decals, green touch screens) and red (chairs, box of donations near the checkout) was very familiar.
The two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows ensured plenty of light poured in on the rows of tables and three sleek, glossy double-sided touchscreens. It looked fancier than any of the many McDonald’s branches I’ve visited in the past, but not as different as I had expected – so much so that I was worried I had wandered into the wrong store and checked the restaurant locator online to see it was the only one in Bow.
The main difference I noticed so far was that, yes, there were definitely fewer people. And it wasn’t for lack of people. There were already plenty of customers here, from a group of laughing school children perched on high stools to families huddled around small, lower square tables and one or two solo customers entering orders – but none were queuing. In fact, the central heart of the new layout – the space in front of the huge order collection window, was empty.
Promising, I thought, but I have yet to test how quickly this new layout can deliver. my order. I had no cash on me and hadn’t come across an ATM on my trip from Canary Wharf so paying by card was for me. This meant the screen, which declared itself from the get-go (but in script small enough that it would have easily been missed if you weren’t looking for it) as “Card payment only”. I hit to start as requested, adding a small fries, burger and Sprite for a total of £2.87, placing my order at exactly 5.22:39pm.
You can choose between receiving your take-out order or eating in and having it delivered, using one of the triangular numbers stacked next to the screens. I went with the first and by 5:24pm my order had not only been posted under “Preparing…”, but had been moved to “Please Pick Up”, called and put back in a brown paper bag by a friendly grey-equipped woman, one of several who tended the hidden kitchen space between the counter and what appeared to be the drive-thru window.
Of course, my order hadn’t been particularly complicated but, with the possible exception of a few extra nuggets, that was my usual – and I had never managed to get it so ridiculously quickly. But there was a problem, I realized, as I located a seat near the window and noticed that everything was very hot, except for the freezing Sprite. Where were the cash-only “customer experience modules”?
A loop of the restaurant didn’t help me locate them and I ended up asking the woman at the counter. She nodded towards the integrated checkout to her right, which was devoid of any signage indicating that this was where customers should go and not exactly what I would call a “customer experience pod”.
So there is room for improvement in this area to make it less confusing for future customers. But other than that, this new speed-increasing design was definitely a winner. Bring the other 797s across the UK, I thought, because I can certainly do one closer to home.
The London locations with the new layout are in Bow and Peckham – more information here.
Is there a story you think we should cover? If yes, please email [email protected]
Want more MyLondon? Sign up to our daily newsletters for all the latest and greatest from London here.