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.

McDonald’s employee Pam Allion stands by the new self-service kiosk to assist caus­tomers.
Nicole Ault | Col­legian

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.”

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    Good story

  • bikebsk

    The end result of the “touch screen tech­nology” of course is to elim­inate employees, as if it were any­thing but. Accli­mating cus­tomers to people-less trans­ac­tions saves the chains most expensive long term costs- payroll. It also is the epitaph on unskilled workers who have been con­fined to minimum wage jobs… and have no other place to go. Where are the political leaders on this most pressing issue? Simply silent as they dis­tract the public with moronic fights over excluding McDonald’s from any healthcare cost debate-they simply get a free ride, dis­tracting with which bathroom male/females should use and fueling endless argu­ments over Russian election con­spiracy the­ories.

    • Felesar

      You’re a special kind of stupid.

  • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

    Remember when you want $15 an hour, your job can be done by a touch screen.