New normal: McDonald's bets on chatbot, 'creative' order channels to reach consumers

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 01 2020 12:07 PM

The M Safe logo as seen in a McDonald's delivery service. Personnel are trained in hygiene and are practicing contactless deliveries for orders. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - McDonald's Philippines said it launched new order channels to reach consumers as more Filipinos prefer to eat at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

A McDonald's Facebook Messenger chatbot was launched in the fourth quarter of 2019 but has become more "relevant" during the coronavirus lockdowns, its marketing and brand extensions director, Oliver Rabatan told reporters in a video conference on Tuesday.

The operator had introduced no-touch deliveries and cook-it-yourself meals at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

"We kept on finding ways for customers to get their McDonald's favorites whenever they wanted," Rabatan said.

The chatbot paved the way for "conversational commerce" where consumers can go directly to the operator's Facebook page to order meals, he said. Rabatan said it would soon offer cashless payments.

McDonald's introduced a Facebook chatbot to assist consumers. Photo: McDonald's Philippines

Park-and-pay and McDo pickup services were also introduced. Considered as the "next level takeout counter", consumers can order online and pickup at their preferred time and branch with no delivery charge, he said.

The "Group Selections" campaign allows consumers to mix-and-match 5 of the most popular food items in a package that's good for 10, 15 or 20 people and have it delivered or picked up, said local store marketing manager Fidel Balbieran.

McDonald's also has health measures in place for delivery of orders including a contactless guideline. ABS-CBN News


RECOVERY AND EXPANSION PLANS

At least 93 percent of all the McDonald's outlets nationwide are now open, said McDonald's Philippines marketing director Margot Torres. Physical distancing, plastic shields and sanitizers are also in stores, in line with its "M Safe" campaign, for those who prefer to dine-in, she said.

The fastfood chain's revenues have been "severely impacted" by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, but it has been recovering since the restrictions are gradually easing, she said.

Businesses schools and restaurants were ordered shut when the island of Luzon was placed under lockdown in March. Dine-in was prohibited but has since been allowed under limited capacity. 

McDonald's has a total of 668 restaurants and it will continue to add more this year, president and CEO Kenneth S. Yang said. The operator will open at least 15 more, he said.

"That's something we have to continue to assess as the time goes, we'll see how the economy will be able to sustain additional growth from the business. We are flexible and ready to accelerate the growth once the circumstances allow," Yang said.

Based on its projections, the "next normal" with established routine and renewed behavior could happen in 2022 onwards, McDonald's said. 

"When the crisis hit and we were locked down we couldn't do dine-in, so we have delivery drive-thru and digital channels. As we continue and the lockdowns ease and people start to have the confidence to go out and dine out, we should see our sales also improving," Yang added.