McDonald’s grabbed multiple headlines this week, and honestly if the chain keeps adding tech-forward initiatives at its current hell-bent pace, I’m gonna have to rename this column “The Week in McDonald’s Tech.”

As we covered earlier in the week, the company broke its longstanding silence on plant-based burgers by announcing the soon-to-launch P.L.T. (“plant,” “lettuce,” “tomato”) sandwich for menus in Canada.

But the possibly ill-named patty wasn’t the only bit of news to come out of the mega-chain’s headquarters. Lately McDonald’s seems to be taking a page from Domino’s playbook; which is to say, the chain is fast becoming as known for its tech initiatives as it is for its burgers.

Image via McDonald’s.

“Alexa, Get Me a McDonald’s Job” Is Now a Thing
This week, McDonald’s also announced it is working with Alexa to let potential new hires apply through a voice-initiated application process. Dubbed “McDonald’s Apply Thru,” the skill works on both Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled devices. Users can simply say, “Alexa, help get me a job at McDonald’s” (or the Google equivalent of that statement) and answer a few basic questions via voice before getting sent a link to complete the application process.

It’s a neat trick . . . I guess. But you have to wonder if bolting voice capability to the front of the application procedure will actually make getting a job at McDonald’s faster and easier, or if it’s just tech for the sake of tech. Obviously it’s early days for these kinds of voice-activated initiatives. It’s not, as Restaurant Dive pointed out, a totally seamless process yet. McDonald’s will need to refine it if it wants to make the voice-enabled application process a long-term facet of its hiring process.

More Tension With McDonald’s Franchisees
But not everyone in McDonaldsland is thrilled about tech for the sake of tech, or the pace at which McDonald’s is aiming to overhaul its locations, of which there are more than 37,000 worldwide. This week, a Bloomberg article delved partly into some of the concerns and frustrations franchises face as its McBoss continues to mandate various tech initiatives.

You should read the full article, which is a fascinating look at how CEO Steve Easterbrook turned the company’s lagging sales around with tech. But franchisees are balking at the expectations around revamping their stores for this “Experience of the Future.” As Bloomberg noted, “They object to the enormous costs of the project, which, for owners of several locations, can run into tens of millions of dollars, even with McDonald’s offering to subsidize 55 percent of the capital for the remodels.”

This is not a new story. Friction between HQ and franchisees has been steadily growing for a while now. And with AI in drive-thrus and voice-recognition now part of the McDonald’s tech tool box, in all likelihood, the McSaga will get more intense in the coming months.

DoorDash Data Breach
DoorDash said in a blog post on Thursday that 4.9 million customers, merchants, and drivers had their information stolen by hackers. That includes names, email addresses, delivery addresses, passwords and, for some, the last four digits of their credit cards. DoorDash pointed out, in bold-faced type, that full payment info was not accessed and that “the information accessed is not sufficient to make fraudulent charges on your payment card.” The breach happened all the way back on May 4, 2019. DoorDash said customers, merchants and Dashers who joined after April 5, 2018 are not affected.

New Deals in Third-Party Delivery
Not that a hack enough to slow down the growth of restaurant delivery via third parties. This week, a few more chains announced deals with various delivery services. Postmates added two new partners, O’Charley’s and restaurant company Kahala Brands, who owns chains like Pinkberry and Blimpie. Meanwhile, Sweetgreen struck an exclusive deal with Uber Eats. That’s a win for the latter, who took a bit of a blow earlier this year when its exclusive contract ended with, yup, you guessed it, McDonald’s.

If you’re still reading and want to learn more about restaurant tech, join us in Seattle on Oct 7–8 for The Spoon’s annual Smart Kitchen Summit. Grab tickets here.

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