In an effort to reduce capital expenditures by $1 billion, McDonald’s is slowing the development of its Experience of the Future store remodels across the U.S., according to a press statement the company sent out today.
The move comes in the wake of the mega-chain, not to mention the entire restaurant industry, having to adjust both operations and expectations to serve customers during a global health crisis. Restaurant sales are down 80 percent, and many establishments are having to quickly pivot to delivery and takeout models in order to stay in business.
Unlike smaller restaurants with shallower pockets, McDonald’s isn’t a newcomer to the off-premises world or the technology that powers it. Up to now, the company was running a $4 billion digital business driven largely by delivery orders. Acquisitions in 2019 of Dynamic Yield (AI tech) and Apprente (voice tech) further enhanced the chain’s to-go-friendly business model, and Experience of the Future stores are meant to encompass all these elements under one roof. They also feature self-service kiosks, curbside pickup areas, improved drive-thru lanes, and many other things meant to make the customer experience at McDonald’s as speedy and efficient as possible.
Then came COVID-19. In addition to closing dining rooms across the U.S., McDonald’s has also halted operations entirely at many stores, including 50 in the U.S., and every single one in the United Kingdom. Those shutdowns also include drive-thru and delivery.
“We entered 2020 in a strong position, but of course the world has since changed,” CEO Chris Kempczinski told Nation’s Restaurant News. “While our January and February global comparable sales were strong, changes in consumer behavior and the various restrictions in place by governments around the world have led to a significant decline in sales.”
To that end, McDonald’s says it plans to build fewer Experience of the Future stores, whether new locations or remodels of old ones, worldwide.
Whether this is a sign of things to come from other similar chains depends. One of the major factors of Mickey D’s remodels is how costly they are — over $700,000 per store, in some cases. Not every chain’s digital business reinvention requires an architectural overhaul as well, especially if a brand is more interested in improving things like delivery and loyalty programs. That said, we may see fewer Chipotlanes and Starbucks Express Stores rolling out for the rest of 2020 — and possibly beyond.