You heard it here first. The French love McDonald's. An increasing number of French people are coming out of the closet to eat fast food from the brand that is so representative of globalisation that French activist José Bové once had a restaurant plowed down to protest against the horrors of all things global.
France is not only the fast food giant's number two market in the world. It's also the first country with an app that allows you to find the closest McDonald's restaurant, order your Happy Meal, pay for it, and then go in to pick it up. You can't even do that in the United States yet.
According to the French subsidiary's digital mastermind, Jean-Noel Penichon, the app was released in November 2013, and well over 4 million copies have already been downloaded. A naive interpretation of those figures says that for every 18 French people, chances are at least one of them has a copy of the McDo (pronounced Mac Doh) app on his or her smartphone. Perhaps that's worth checking next time you go to a cocktail party in Paris.
One of the benefits McDonald's is finding with this new system for ordering online is that when customers take their time to place orders away from the pressures of a busy restaurant counter, they tend to order more.
Penichon says that another interesting finding is that the new click-and-collect service in McDonald's France is a case where m-business is holding it's own against regular old e-commerce. According to Penichon, whereas in most businesses, mobile commerce represents around 7% or 8% of electronic sales, at McDonald's France, 50% of the online orders now originate from mobile handsets. Presumably so many customers are on the go that they would rather suffer the hassles and risks of ordering and paying from a smartphone than go home to place their orders.
The VP of information technology says that McDonald's France is the first to allow use of PayPal to buy a physical product in a physical location. But they aren't stopping there. To address any remaining issues around payment, Penichon says that customers can expect improvements around online payment to make it more convenient and intuitive.
The second set of changes we can expect with the McDo app are changes that allow customers to better organise their in-store visits. In other words, McDonald's is working on ways of making it so you don't have to wait for your order once you get to the store.
Even though the French pride themselves on sitting down for an hour or two to enjoy a good meal amongst friends, they are the first to take the idea of fast food to its extreme. When it comes to McDonald's, the rest of the world is going to have to step aside and let the French go to the front of the queue.