Walk into the Hillsdale McDonalds, and you’ll be greeted by a warm smile from employee Pam Allion and the bright LED glow of what McDonald’s calls the “Experience of the Future”: four kiosks with touch screens that allow customers to order food without speaking to an employee behind the counter.
After four weeks of renovations this summer, the Hillsdale McDonald’s is breaking ground for McDonald’s locations across the country: According to a corporate McDonald’s press release from March, the company plans to renovate 650 U.S. locations and outfit 2,500 with Experience of the Future technology by the end of 2017. Out of 543 McDonald’s locations in Michigan, the Hillsdale branch is one of just six to feature the kiosks, said general manager Nicole Chapman.
The store began renovating the exterior in August, Chapman said, then closed the interior for remodeling in September, operating just the drive-thru until the lobby reopened on Oct. 13. Besides the kiosks, the interior now sports streamlined, neutrally-toned decor and map-themed decorations.
“It’s more contemporary,” Chapman said, adding that she thinks the kiosks will be attractive to millennials.
Some might worry that the kiosks will replace human employees, Chapman noted, but she said she’s hiring 15 more people. Plus, people don’t have to order at the kiosks; there’s always someone at the front counter, too.
Renovations include an updated playland with a new “sparkle table” that lights up when kids sit down at it. The playland will feature interactive tablets soon, Chapman said.
Assistant store manager Crystal Miller said customers will soon be able to place mobile orders from their phones and have food delivered to them outside in special parking spots.
Exterior renovations won’t be complete until landscapers finish up and overhangs are installed over the drive-thru windows, Chapman said. She said they had to cut down trees around the building because they were leaking sap on cars.
The renovations should be finished in time for the store’s grand opening on Nov. 17, Chapman said.
Allion, who’s worked behind the counter and in the drive-thru, is now the “Guest Experience Leader” — refilling coffee, helping people place their kiosk orders, making sure customers are happy with their orders.
“The GEL person makes it more personable, and that’s what our goal is,” Allion said. “I like being with the customers, talking to people.”
Allion and Chapman both said more customers have come in since the interior reopened — Chapman guessed as many as 40 new people per day.
Customers have greeted the renovations with mixed reactions. Some expressed disappointment that the trees were cut down, and some thought the minimalist decor looks too industrial. Several said they disliked the smaller play area, which they said didn’t keep their kids entertained for long.
But others had more positive views of the changes.
Customer James Galloway said the kiosks and ordering area are “clean and user friendly,” and he would use the kiosks in case of a line. He also said he liked the “open view” provided by the new layout.
One group of customers comes almost daily — just over a dozen local residents, some of them farmers, who gather to chat over coffee and breakfast. With the new renovations, it’s hard to find a table big enough for all of them, said Darrel Williams, who’s been coming for about seven years.
His friend Gary Stemen acknowledged the same problem, but said there are some positive aspects: It’s bigger and brighter, the service is quicker, and he liked the GEL coming around with coffee refills, he said.
Allion said she expects the store will keep regulars like the daily coffee group — and gain new ones.
“We have our regulars that come in and like to pick on us,” she said, “and we have new customers who will hopefully become regulars.”