Innovation in the catering industry, the advantages: the case of McDonald’s Italia

The digital transformation of processes and services cannot be relegated to companies in the ICT sector, on the contrary it is a path which, if properly tackled, brings benefits across every production area. This is the case, for example, of the catering industry: “It is the customers who are asking for digitalisation, we need to think about the needs of current consumers, both young and old – he explains Paola Pavesi, technology director of McDonald’s Italy -. Digital is changing habits related to where and how to buy. Platforms and applications are essential to remain competitive”. However, it is important to initiate a paradigm shift in the company, thinking not only of introducing technology but of redesigning processes from a digital perspective, with benefits for both customers and restaurant workers.

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Because digital also affects restaurants

In order for there to be an important awareness of the usefulness of innovating their processes and services by companies in sectors other than those related to technology, it is necessary to embrace the concept that digital transformation brings transversal benefits to any production area. But above all that it is not an option, but a une priority to address in order to remain well positioned on the market: “Using digital solutions and redesigning one’s processes is not a choice but an obligation for a company that wants to remain competitive and be attentive to customer trends and needs. Furthermore, all business and production processes are permeated by technology, from the supply chain to logistics. No one can remain indifferent if he wants to remain competitive ”, explains Pavesi.

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A particularly crucial moment for the restaurant world was the one linked to the pandemic. If before especially restaurants in big cities or part of large entrepreneurial realities digitized their services, the lockdown period has forced new solutions to restaurateurs to reach their customers: “On the one hand we have witnessed the elimination of many players from the market , on the other it has accelerated innovation, for example by making delivery methods established in Italy through digital tools”. However, we need to go further, evolve: “It is not enough, solutions such as back-end processes integrated with logistics are no longer optional for large catering companies”.

How to choose digital solutions for catering

If on an empirical level the concept is easily graspable, the grounding of concrete solutions can represent a more complex challenge. In a market full of technological solutions, it is difficult for those who are facing the start of the digital transition to orient themselves and understand which tools are right for them. The advice is to start from one’s own reality: “To choose the most suitable technological platform, it is necessary above all so much clarity about your positioning. The most important aspect is to have a clear corporate strategy. The guide must be entrusted to business and marketing, once the priorities of those sectors have been identified and the type of relationship one wishes to have with consumers, the choice of the most suitable tech solution can be made”, suggests Pavesi. First of all, we must remember that “customers expect a quality experience”.

McDonald’s Italia, for example, uses proprietary technologies: “They are considered a competitive advantage, the back office solutions, for example, are closely linked to the company strategy”. But you don’t have to rely only on technology: “It’s not just a question of the platform but also of the ability to transformcreate new internal processes, make these platforms work in a synergistic way internally, implementing an integration between technology, operation, digital marketing, harmonizing everything”. An overall, holistic strategy in which data also takes on great importance: “They are an essential asset for growth and the creation of value, as well as for making the right strategic decisions”.

The digital transformation in McDonald’s Italy

The business case of McDonald’s Italia is interesting for understanding how a restaurant chain has introduced innovation into its processes. Pavesi says that “the turning point in Italy began in 2013, because then we began to install digital kiosks that changed the experience in our restaurants, eliminating long queues at the checkouts. The activation of this technology has disrupted the experience of consumers and also that of employees”, because “since the kiosks have been combined with table service, they have allowed the workers to devote more time to customer relations”.

Other benefits are attributable to the possibility of personalizing the recipes and to the reduced waiting and management times: “If before there was a frenetic pace at the checkouts, now thanks to twelve digital interfaces there is less stress and waiting”, explains Pavesi, who adds how the company has “started a path towards multichannel whose goal was to increase accessibility, adapting to the needs of customers and improving the experience they have in a restaurant or at delivery or take away”. The innovation also concerned the kitchens: “There is more technology in the kitchens for preparing orders in real time: as soon as the orders are closed at the kiosks, they go straight to the kitchen, we have also integrated the delivery service and started to use predictive systems related to logisticswhereby each single point of sale also collects data based on what is happening around the restaurant, such as large events for example, to optimize orders and reduce waste”.

The future scenario

The personalization of the experience through an app and not only is the challenge for the next two years: “We are moving in such a way as to allow check-in at kiosks, so that customers receive proposals based on the preferences of any dishes . The same thing can be done to the digital menu boards of the drive, you will declare yourself through the application to have a personalized experience – concludes Pavesi -. Another challenge is to make life easier for operators in the kitchen and dining room”.


Innovation in the catering industry, the advantages: the case of McDonald’s Italia – Digital Agenda