McDonald's went from testing delivery to offering it at 5,000 locations across America in less than 2 years, and it represents a massive shift in the fast-food giant's strategy

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderMcDonald’s delivery is taking over the world.
  • McDonald’s has gone from testing delivery at 200 stores to partnering with UberEats at more than 5,000 locations across the United States in less than two years. McDonald’s delivery is now available via UberEats at 12,000 locations globally.
  • The chain’s approach to delivery represents a new strategy for McDonald’s – one that prioritises “progress over perfection.”
  • “I think we’re just getting started,” Lucy Brady, the McDonald’s senior vice president who has overseen delivery at the chain, told Business Insider.

CHICAGO – McDonald’s only began delivering fast food in the United States less than two years ago. But, those two years have been explosive.

On Thursday, McDonald’s celebrated “Global McDelivery Day,” a holiday of sorts that the chain created last year, the first July that the fast-food giant was offering delivery in any major capacity. McDonald’s now offers delivery through a partnership with UberEats at 12,000 locations in 60 markets, including 5,000 restaurants in the US.

“I think we’re just getting started,” Lucy Brady, the McDonald’s senior vice president who has overseen delivery at the chain, told Business Insider.

“Everybody who tries it loves it,” Brady said. “There’s always a little bit of, ‘Well will the fries taste good? Will they show up hot?’ … If [they] have a great experience, we’re finding, customers repeat over and over.”

French Fries 7Hollis JohnsonMcDonald’s fries are a delivery best seller — but also a challenge.

McDonald’s launched delivery in the US as a test at just 200 restaurants in Florida in early 2017. To go from 200 locations to 5,000 in under two years is an impressive feat in its own right. More than that, it represents a new strategy for McDonald’s – one that prioritises “progress over perfection,” Brady says.

Over the past three years, under the leadership of CEO Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s has realigned its strategies to roll out more tests and adopt new tech in an effort to modernise the chain. The results have included self-order kiosks rolling out across the US, new menu items such as fresh-beef burgers, and a delivery deal with UberEats.

“Uber prides ourselves on moving quickly, but in so many different circumstances I feel like McDonald’s moves faster,” Liz Meyerdirk, the head of business development at UberEats, said.

“The pace of change is accelerating,” Brady said. “The ability to anticipate and react quickly is really important.”

Making things happen quickly can sometimes mean McDonald’s hits bumps in the process and floors the metaphorical gas, fixing the problem while continuing to speed ahead. Making sure fries stay warm has been a top customer concern and a problem that has plagued McDonald’s since it began testing delivery.

While cold, floppy fries can convince customers to never order McDonald’s via UberEats again, the chain has pressed onward, trying to boost reliability as delivery simultaneously expands.

“It’s never 100% solved,” Brady said. “But, it’s our best-selling item. Satisfaction is very high.”

Why delivery matters

McDonald's Value MenuHollis Johnson

If McDonald’s can boost delivery orders, the chain can see some concrete benefits.

Delivery allows for more late-night orders, with roughly 60% of orders currently coming after 4 p.m. The average delivery check is 1.5 to two times as large as a typical customer’s order. And, it helps make McDonald’s seem more modern and relevant more generally.

“We’re not just growing the delivery business,” Brady said. “The rising tide is actually going to lift both the delivery business and the restaurant business. And, that creates a really vibrant brand and energy.”

The biggest challenge right now, according to Brady, is simple awareness. Even in cities that offer McDonald’s delivery, many customers simply aren’t aware that it is available, something McDonald’s is trying to combat with initatives like the McDelivery Day giveaways. And, there’s still the question of how to speed ahead and expand delivery while ensuring reliability.

“How do you make sure you’re moving fast enough and scaling fast enough, as a global business, but still taking into account all the various local nuances to really represent what the people want?” Meyerdirk said.

For these two global brands, part of the solution is tweaking delivery based on local needs as the service expands. In skyscraper-filled Hong Kong, for example, some UberEats delivery people have ditched their cars to make deliveries on foot.

As McDonald’s hustles to stay ahead of the growing pack of chains trying to boost sales with delivery, not everything will be be perfect immediately. But, for the fast-food chain, forging ahead – both in delivery and in modernising the company overall – is worth risking a cold fry or two along the way.

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