March 13th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

The fast food industry’s ostensible selling point is speed, but one needs only to drive past a few of these ubiquitous joints to see that they don’t always live up to their promise. Lunchtime drive-thru lines are liable to leave a gas tank empty; payment options are often limited, and don’t necessarily support the latest mobile technologies; and–this has always puzzled me–they usually don’t offer home delivery.

But while the bar for quality and service at these establishments tends to be low, and that might have worked in the past, it’s clear that these companies are beginning to recognize that people have more options than ever, and are investing in improving customer experience.

One company invested in transformation is McDonald’s, who early this month released a plan for developments intended to bring customers back to its thousands of locations. To become more competitive, the company has announced that it will enable delivery, curbside pickup, and mobile app-based ordering options. 

“Through enhanced technology to elevate and modernize the customer experience, a focus on the quality and value of our food and redefined convenience through delivery, we have a bold vision for the future and the urgency to act on it,” said CEO Steve Easterbrook in a statement. “We are moving with velocity to drive profitable growth and becoming an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”

Another burger chain, Wendy’s, also recently stepped up its game, and began to install self-checkout kiosks in 1,000 of its United States stores.

This shift is not just happening in the U.S., either. In China, KFC in is teaming up with search powerhouse Baidu to implement facial recognition systems that allow their in-store kiosks to predict what menu items are most likely to appeal to a customer based on data related to age, mood, gender, and other factors.

This is all well and good, but with a growing number of customers comes greater responsibility and expectations. The implicit hope here is that the quality of the food, recommendations, and jobs these food providers offer future customers and  employees, continues to rise as well.

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