McDonald’s taps startups to bring urgency to plans to digitise stores


McDonald’s is looking to technology start-up space to help source social media and mobile marketing ideas on how to digitise its restaurant experience across Europe.


McDonald's Europe is hoping to uncover ideas on how to better integrate digital in-stores from its first hackathon.
McDonald’s Europe is hoping to uncover ideas on how to better integrate digital in-stores from its first hackathon.

The company’s European division is holding its first hackathon in London this weekend, tasking participants to “build the restaurant experience for the next generation”.

Attendees are encouraged to build apps that push mobile into the customer journey in-stores using iBeacons and NFC technology or focus on gamifcation once they have left. Ideas on how to expand incentives beyond the traditional discounts, coupons and promotions will also be expected from the event alongside ways the business can better market its sustainability work.

The initiative is led by the European brand and strategy team, specifically senior director of digital strategy Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, who joined from Facebook earlier this year, and vice president of digital Luke Vinogrodov.

McDonald’s has no immediate plans to launch other hackathons but says it will consider future developments. The reach out to the pan-European start-up community contrasts to how the business is tackling the digital divide in the US, where it has set up its own innovation hub.

It sees the brand become the latest in a growing line of advertisers looking outside their organsiations for fresh ideas. Nike, Unilever, Diageo and Heineken have all launched hackathons and accelerator schemes over the last two years with the intent of gaining an edge over their rivals.

McDonald’s says its scheme supports its own internal developments that have already seen it trial a mobile coupon app in some parts of Europe. Earlier this year, it also revealed plans to install self-order kiosks and introduce mobile and web ordering across the region as part the wider global modernisation of its in-store experience.

McDonald’s is under pressure to better integrate digital into its restaurants as it looks for ways to reverse ongoing sales declines. The retailer, which started out as a disruptor in the fast food industry with its menu and restaurant design, believes digital can deliver the disruption needed to revive sales.

But it is not just digital the company is banking on to return to growth. Speaking to analysts last month, McDonald’s chief executive Don Thompson said its in-store revolution needed to extend to menus by taking advantage of local preferences and offering more choice.