McFlurry Conspiracy: Smart Commercial Kitchens to the Rescue!

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Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article about the challenges customers were having getting McFlurries at McDonald’s.

While entertaining on the surface – conspiracy theories swirl around social media about why McFlurries were not available –­ the article points to more serious challenges that affect all food service operators and equipment providers: restaurant operations are complex, social media can be a powerful force, and hiccups with delivering promised products can result in customer backlash and unwanted media coverage. 

The WSJ article on McFlurries never came to a firm conclusion, but it pointed to the inherent challenges with uptime of the machines that make the shakes, and suggested that system maintenance may be at the root of the problem. The sophisticated shake machines require regular cleaning, and automated heated cleaning cycles can take many hours to complete, taking the machine offline for the duration. Customers unable to get McFlurries while the shake machines are offline go home and post video rants to social media. Negative press follows.

What is a food service operator to do?

Skipping the cleaning cycles is clearly not an option. More employee training on proper use and maintenance of the systems may help, as could enforcement of processes for how and when equipment is taken offline. But humans can make mistakes, and employee turnover can thwart efforts to drive operational consistency across all stores. 

Visibility and centralized access to data – as part of what we call the Smart Commercial Kitchen – can help address issues such as these. At Powerhouse Dynamics, we are witnessing – and helping to drive – an increased awareness in the food service industry of the need for transparency and real-time analytics to drive more efficiency in store operations. 

Integrating critical equipment like shake machines into an online platform such as SiteSage can provide the visibility and analytics required to substantially reduce challenging situations like the one McDonald’s faces with their shake machines. 

With centralized access to shake machine data through a cloud-based platform, operators could:

  • Benchmark equipment uptime and downtime and find the outlier locations with problematic equipment that needs to be addressed
  • Have real-time automated alerts sent to the appropriate maintenance technicians so they can react quickly to equipment problems
  • Diagnose system capacity for more effective operational and capital planning, identifying bottlenecks by location, usage, and time to develop best practices
  • Provide key information to the equipment manufacturer about onsite use across locations to assist them in improving the product

While equipment connectivity and data analytics are certainly not a silver bullet that would completely eliminate operational issues from ever making the news, it can help avoid many problems. 

The Smart Commercial Kitchen is coming – and with it, more McFlurries. 

Interested in learning more about smart commercial kitchens?

The Smart Kitchen and Operational Efficiency: Read the White Paper

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