McDonald's to Roll Out New 'Dual-Point' Ordering System

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McDonald's (MCD) customers aren't as happy as they used to be, but the world's largest restaurant chain has a plan.

Facing a spike in customer complaints on employee friendliness, McDonald's is rolling out a new dual-point ordering system that will hopefully make the dine-in experience less chaotic than it is at the moment.

Diners, franchisees, and investors better hope so.

Grimace is in the House

Shares of McDonald's hit a new all-time high on Friday, but things aren't as rosy as the stock chart suggests. In October 2012 the chain posted a year-over-year decline in monthly sales at the individual store level, the first time since 2003 it reported negative monthly comparable sales.

McDonald's has been expanding its menu aggressively to offset diner boredom. Premium chicken sandwiches, restaurant-worthy salads, and premium coffee beverages give the fast food behemoth more than just burgers to woo diners.

However, all of the exotic additions could also be creating confusion and long waits for customers.

Having a McHeart-to-Heart

McDonald's executives invited franchisees to a webcast last month where it detailed that one in five of the customer complaints that were coming in were about unfriendly employees. According to The Wall Street Journal, executives also pointed out that the number of complaints singling out rude or unprofessional employees is growing.

It could be a training issue, but it could also be the complexity of the menu and the longer wait times for the hungry to get their food.

McDonald's is banking on a new system to get that right.

Your Number is Up

The new system at McDonald's will dish out orders by placing numbers on receipts. A lot of chains do this already, but McDonald's will have an overhead screen that flashes the order numbers that are ready. Instead of having customers hover around the register after they order, the new system frees them to sit or walk around the restaurant until their food is ready.

Perhaps more importantly, there will be a dedicated employee bringing the completed orders to the opposite end of the counter. The move will free the clutter around the registers, and the runner will be able to fulfill any requests for sugar packets or honey-mustard sauce containers instead of tripping up a cashier tending to a new order.

A more pleasant experience will naturally encourage more repeat visits. McDonald's needs that to happen, regardless of what its sky-high share price suggests.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.

28 PHOTOS
Go Inside The Secret Test Kitchen Where McDonald's Invents New Menu Items
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McDonald's to Roll Out New 'Dual-Point' Ordering System

Tucked away at the McDonald's C.O.B. — or Campus Office Building — is the test kitchen, where the fast food chain comes up with all sorts of products.



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The kitchens are up on the top floor on Big Mac Blvd. Yes, McDonald's names all the "streets" in its global headquarters office building.



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Here's what Big Mac Blvd. looks like. Kitchens on the left, cubicles on the right.



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Here we are — the test kitchen is called the Culinary Center.



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It's a bit strange, actually — a McDonald's kitchen encased in glass that's more fitting for a conference room.



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The kitchen has some appropriate reading.


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We met up with Chef Jessica Foust, a nutrition and culinary manager at the test kitchen.



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Judging by the setup, the kitchen was prepped to handle the McWraps and Fish McBites. The box o' fish is the McDonald's latest limited-time offering, hitting locations just in time for Lent.



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It has all the gadgets that a regular McDonald's kitchen would have.



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Like these handheld pumps.



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And the usual cups and shakers.



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There's even a little guide on how to get buns toasted perfectly.



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So we ran through the whole process of making a McWrap — a product that McDonald's is counting on going forward.



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The whole assembly line was set up — simple enough.



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The finished product (well, after we'd taken a bite) — just like you'd see in restaurants.



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We also got to try those Fish McBites, which weren't in stores yet.



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The breading's different from a Filet-O-Fish and it's a totally different experience.



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A lot of people shy away from fast food fish, but it wasn't too bad. We wouldn't go out of our way to order it, though McDonald's Filet-O-Fish lovers might.



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What's Foust's favorite item that never made it into restaurants? A blueberry yogurt ice cream shake, she told us.



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That's not the only kitchen at the McDonald's HQ. There are plenty more running down the side of Big Mac Blvd.



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On the way to another one, we ran into Chef Dan Coudreaut, the executive chef at McDonald's.



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Other chefs were at work too. This one was getting some bacon ready for some unknown project.



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It was a bit of a mess in there, like a scientist's lab, with chefs busy at work with their food.



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There's also the Sensory Evaluation Center, which McDonald's uses to test the new stuff they're experimenting with in order to get the feedback to improve the products.



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It's a key part of product development. In the Difference Test, you evaluate everything from appearance and color to viscosity and flavor.



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The items come through a magic door. We tasted a set of mango pineapple smoothies and each of them were slightly different.



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