Steve Tiley, head of information services at McDonald’s Restaurants, says it has been a tough year for the company, with lots of challenges from a corporate point of view. Media and government campaigns to encourage healthy eating have hit the fast food industry and McDonald’s, like the other fast food chains, makes for an easy target, according to Tiley. “We are actually just offering customers a choice,” he says.

McDonald’s has embarked on a complete technology refresh of its restaurant backoffices, representing a major investment for the company. “It began a few months ago, and will take two to three years to deploy to all 1,250 restaurants,” says Tiley. “We are doing three to four restaurants a night: the EPoS tills and backoffices for all outlets, and kitchen equipment as well, so that the cooking process is affected, making for hotter, fresher food.”

He adds: “It is very exciting to do a mass rollout like this. Obviously we don’t do them at the weekends, busy times, or in the holidays, as it isn’t worth the risk. There are some issues and differences in sizes of implementations, but on the whole my suppliers aren’t keeping me awake at night.”

Tiley says the company has changed its restaurant helpdesk support, and is also standardising platforms throughout the company. “We are working to get rid of proprietary equipment and replace it with standard systems. It is an interesting time, but it seems to be going very well,” he says.

Later this year McDonald’s will be looking at a strategy for credit card systems, which have particular issues for the fast food outlet. “They can really affect the whole speed of service. We have done a test in Scotland and will be putting together a strategy this year,” says Tiley.

“The various options can be quite troublesome. For example in the drive-through part of the business, how do you get a pin device to the customer? Will it be dropped between the window and car, how long should the wire be and, if it is wireless, what if someone inadvertently drives off with it?”

He adds: “All this needs addressing, but speed is a very important factor.”