Williamsburg McDonald's first in region to get 'experience of the future'

McDonald's experience of the future is really just trying to catch up to the latest trends in fast casual dining, according to the owner-operator of a Williamsburg location that is a regional prototype for the changes. 

The Williamsburg McDonald's near Busch Gardens, at 1901 Pocahontas Trail, is the first among all of the fast food chain's 190 locations in the Richmond, Tidewater and Shenandoah regions to be remodeled, with kiosks to order food, split counters to separate orders from pickups, table service and additional staff to deliver on the new service offerings. 

"Years ago, we were always a leader in this industry," said Frank Harmon, the owner-operator of two McDonald's locations in the Williamsburg area and another two in south Hampton Roads, including the one near Busch Gardens. "And quite frankly, over the last, probably, 10 years, our competitors caught up, [and] passed us. Well, this new CEO and president of the company [Steve Easterbrook] said, 'We're going to get to where they're at and we're going to be the leader again. We're going to come out with all these new innovations."

The new location features a split front counter to separate orders from pickups, two self-service kiosks that allow for four people at a time to order, table service and an additional drive-thru lane.

It means the store can take up to nine orders simultaneously -- four at the kiosks, three at the counter and two in the drive-thrus. That is up from four -- three at the counter and one at the drive-thru. 

But instead of the additional self-service options causing anyone to lose a job, Kyle Harmon said an additional 25-to-30 people would be hired for the busier summer season.

Typically, he said the store would have 40 employees for spring and 50 for the summer. Instead, the new hires, which will go toward additional staff for the increased need of kitchen staff, table servers and drive-thru workers, would increase the summer staff to about 80 employees. 

"The hospitality is the big part of this," Frank Harmon said. "We're going to be really focusing more and more on that aspect."

Changes still in the works include allowing for mobile ordering, pay, curbside pickup and delivery. 

"You're going to be seeing a lot of changes," said Kyle Harmon, who along with his father Frank Harmon, is the owner-operator of two Williamsburg McDonald's. 

Frank Harmon said the store closed Feb. 6 and it reopened March 6, with the kiosks coming a week later. He would not disclose how much was spent to remodel the store, only saying that "it was a lot."

"We're very excited to do this in this area, and there's going to be more to come," Frank Harmon said. 

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