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Table Service is McDonald’s Latest Test

McCafe reportedly accounted for 5% of McDonald's sales in France.

Already crossing into fast-casual territory in menu and pricing, McDonald’s in France is testing limited table service that could continue to move brand perceptions out of the “fast food” realm.

At 50 of its 120 Paris locations that have McCafés and touchpad order/pay terminals, McDonald’s staff bring out McCafé orders to seated customers. The chain intends to evaluate the service model through 2011, with a wider introduction anticipated in 2012, Jean-Pierre Petit, CEO of McDonald’s France, told Le Figaro.

The order kiosks are in 800 of the 1,195 McDonald’s in France, accounting for 17% of orders, according to the newspaper, which reports that McCafé counters take in 5% of sales in units where included.

The chain’s French operation, which reportedly had 2010 sales of €3.9 billion, has taken a leadership role in updating the McDonald’s brand. Last year it aired a TV commercial about a gay teen. In October, McDonald’s opened a combination salad/bar McCafé unit in Paris that sells no hamburgers. The menu included goat-cheese-topped burgers and salads in eco-friendly boxes. Next week it adds Charolais beef. 

Table service may not be headed for the U.S. soon, although McDonald’s has tested the idea several times here. One was the “McDonald’s 3 ’n 1” concept tested in Lincoln, Neb., in 2002. It offered modified table service and the choice of three counters, each with its own menu (traditional, sandwich/platter and bakery/ice cream). The previous year, it opened the first “McDonald’s with the Diner Inside,” where food was ordered by customers via telephones on tables. It sounds so low-tech now.

Of course, McDonald’s is hardly pioneering with its test. Carl’s Jr., Culver’s and a few other quick-service chains have offered modified table service for decades. But the Paris test does show that QSRs are changing in ways aimed more at keeping aging loyalists than at luring young customers.

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