Fast Food behemoth, McDonald's, hosted its first European hackathon in November. The hackathon's goal was to uncover apps, ideas, and solutions to revolutionize the digital restaurant experience. McDonald's invited developers, designers, startups, students, and anybody else with a passion for new technology to participate in the 48 hour event. With McDonald's massive influence over an industry, the results could lead to a makeover of McDonald's itself, and perhaps the fast food industry as a whole.
McDonald's has long been synonymous with "fast food" and its hackathon approach represented a new approach to business development not often associated with the chain. For instance, McDonald's employees were not allowed to participate in the event. Further, the hackathon homepage clearly states: "100% of the code created belongs to the participants." McDonald's has long enjoyed a top spot in the fast food market. Such comfort often leads to a closed, king of the castle model where everything from the secret sauce to supply chain naunces remain concealed from the public as much as possible. The hackathon suggested a more open approach for the fast food giant, and suggests McDonald's may have an appetite for business practices akin to modern startups (e.g. hackathons, open source, technology-driven approach, etc.).
McDonald's has often been tagged with labels other than "fast food" company. Many have attributed its success to its real estate strategy. Others have stressed its marketing strength as the backbone of its growth. McDonald's appeal to children cannot be overlooked. However, few if any have pegged McDonald's as a technology company. McDonald's may force a second consideration on the technology front. McDonald's directly targeted the technology-based generation (i.e. the Millennials) with the hackathon. In its call for participants, McDonald's submitted: "Come build the restaurant experience for the Millenial generation." Buzz words such as gamification, customer loyalty, restaurant experience, and others were all pitched as guiding factors for the hackathon. Participants were directed to think disruption in every aspect of the restaurant experience: ordering, payment, waiting, eating, and exiting. McDonald's may have built its reputation on its history, but it looks to the future to continue its dominance.