Last week I was invited to McDonald's Silverlink to go behind the scenes and see what new changes they are making to the restaurants, and also to make my very own Big Mac! We were greeted at the store by franchisee Bill who was the 6th McDonald's franchise owner here in the UK and now has several branches here in the North East, including the Silverlink branch which has the busiest drive-thru in the North East. Bill employs over 600 people here in the North East, and funnily enough my partner actually worked for Bill and the store manager Simon many years ago when he was a teenager at the Silverlink branch.
First up we were shown around the restaurant and learnt some rather impressive facts that I was not aware of. Such as McDonald's are doing their best to reduce waste and hope to have zero waste to landfill by 2020, they do this by having cardboard and plastic recycling bins in-store and even the cooking oil is made into bio-fuel for their delivery trucks.
Another thing that I was really impressed by was the new kiosk ordering system that is being rolled out in branches around the country. We normally visit the Killingworth branch (also ran by Bill) which doesn't have the kiosks yet so I had never used them and after seeing what they are like I am impressed. The kiosks allow you to take your time when ordering without feeling you are holding the queue up, it even gives you the option of remove ingredients from your meal - such as pickles or ketchup on a burger. When ordering something like a Happy Meal you will be shown the healthy items such as fruit snacks and milk first before things like fizzy pop.
You also have the option of requesting table service too which is something I had no idea about. You just request it at the kiosk, go and sit down, leave your receipt on the table and a member of staff will bring your food to you when it is ready. I imagine this service is so useful to parents with prams or those with mobility issues. You can still order from the counter if you prefer though.
Then it was time to go behind the scenes, we were presented with our own hat, apron and name badge so that we really looked the part. We were shown around the stock area and all of the ingredients that McDonald's use are high quality, the fries are made by Mccain, the milk is organic and eggs are free range and the beef burgers are 100 % British beef and have nothing else added (other than salt and pepper). Everything was spotlessly clean and an alarm even sounds every 20 minutes to remind staff to wash there hands.
I always imagined that McDonald's batch made all the food and it was left waiting for someone to buy it but that is not the case at all, everything is made fresh. Clever computerised programs help the staff to calculate the number of burgers that need to be available due to trends for the restaurant.The burgers are cooked on the griddle which can tell how long each burger needs to be cooked depending on its thickness, eliminating human error. Then when you place an order the staff will create your burger fresh for you.
We then got to create our own Big Mac, it is very slick how the create them with everything to hand making the process seamless. First, you toast the three-part bun, this takes just 7 seconds, then you can pop it in the box and squirt on some secret Big Mac sauce, add some onions, lettuce and 2 pickles, 2 freshly cooked burgers from the tray and some cheese. It was so quick to make, even for a beginner like me. I don't normally order a Big Mac when we visit McDonald's, I have always been a McChicken sandwich fan, but I enjoyed my Big Mac and think it might be my new favourite.
Overal I was really impressed with the changes that McDonald's are making, I now know that they use quality ingredients and the food is cooked fresh so I don't mind my children having one every now and then as a treat. My fifteen-year-old daughter also wants to work in McDonald's when she is at college and after seeing what a great environment it is and how much franchises like Bill care for his staff (even putting some through degrees) I would be happy for her to work there when she is a student in a few years time.
Disclosure This is a collaborative post with McDonald's.