McDonald’s customer service hits rock bottom in drive thru ratings

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

McDonald’s was founded on the basis of customer service. Ray Kroc, the original McDonald’s CEO put a huge emphasis on a customer-first mentality: “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” That seems to be lost ass McDonald’s customer service hits rock bottom in drive-thru ratings

In a recent study by QSR magazine on the attributes of customer service through the drive-thru window, McDonald’s customer service finished rock bottom on attributes linked to friendliness. I always believe “manners and smiles are free” when the reality is they need to be embedded within the culture of the organization. They are hard work.

When it comes to smiling, McDonald’s customer service finishes last at 62%, almost 30% lower than Chick-Fil-A. 

And when it comes to saying “Thank You” McDonald’s customer service also finishes rock bottom with only 78% of occasions compared to 95% for Chick-Fil-A. 

Chick-Fil-A is the gold standard on service when it comes to the drive-thru. They believe that employees are the company’s “secret recipe,” and the drive-thru strategy is designed around people as much as it is technology and systems. “It’s all about speed and accuracy, but we know our customers appreciate that we can be nice while being fast and accurate. Eye contact and smiling go a long way in the drive-thru experience.”

McDonald's Service level

Even on the speed of service, McDonald’s customer service now finishes mid-pack. Wendy’s is the leader in speed, about 45 seconds faster on average. A quote from Wendy’s on the drive-thru service says the fast service is the result of the company tirelessly tracking line times and optimizing the layout of the kitchens:  “Customers visit the drive-thru due to its convenience, so we strive to meet that expectation every day, every customer.

McDonald’s customer service might just get worse, not better

McDonald’s has stated that they are going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am a big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack, and Big Smoke burgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your burger until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the burger out and placed on the grill. The one big difference is that Five Guys basically only serve burgers. What will happen to the McDonald’s drive-thru if I just want a coffee, yet have to sit behind 9 people ordering fresh burgers. It just won’t work.

How do you communicate your brand story internally?

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety of answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. That is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in seven seconds, sixty seconds, thirty minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea. The big idea must drive McDonald’s customer service

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand stories are aligned. It should be a Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on certain brand values.

brand culture

The Big Idea Should Drive The Culture

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea. Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look at the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values that flow from the big idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.


Here’s a PowerPoint presentation on how to define your brand, including the benefit cluster tool.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant