As a writer, there are times I need to figuratively put myself into someone else’s shoes, to try to write from their perspective and viewpoint.
And at other times, I get a more literal experience.
Every year, the McDonald’s Malaysia office staff and business partners will go on-ground to all of its restaurants nationwide to serve customers shoulder-to-shoulder with its crew, in an event they have coined as #McDTurunPadang Day. My company was invited to take part, and my boss volunteered me.
I’ve worked in the food service industry before, close to a decade ago. But, I was game for this, as I have never attempted a McDonald’s restaurant before. The McDonald’s outlet I was assigned to was in Kota Damansara.
Walking in, I was assigned into the thick of things after a quick briefing.
Luckily, we were buddied up with experienced restaurant crew and we were going to be on the service side, with a focus on the Experience of The Future (EOTF) features.
The EOTF is more than a fancy acronym. It’s actually part of McDonald’s Malaysia’s efforts to enhance the customer’s experience using an elegant combo of technology and hospitality. But more on that later.
If you’ve walked into a McDonald’s restaurant recently, you would’ve probably seen one of these Self-Order Kiosks (SOKs).
My first task of the day was to see if any customers needed help navigating the kiosks, and to assist them. This role is called the SOK coach, one of the EOTF features.
I consider myself well-versed with these machines; I had better be. I’ve spent a lot of time in front of one before, trying to figure out where the nuggets were.
Now I became the slightly-anxious-yet-smiling person hovering nearby as customers made their orders.
This was considered a pretty easy task. In my time there, I found that quite a few of the customers were regulars, and were pretty familiar with how it worked.
Starting off was easy, but soon, my role expanded.
Another hallmark of EOTF equipped McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia was that they provide table service. This rolled out in October 2018, and only certain restaurants are fully equipped.
But it’s not just that.
After carrying the trays to the table, whoever does the service will actually return after a few minutes to check with the guests if everything’s alright.
What I realised, and what some of the crew shared, is that a lot of customers appreciate this small interaction.
“Sometimes we end up talking about how their days were, or even a bit about their lives,” shared Izzat. His main role is customer satisfaction & happiness, though he does a lot more than that.
In fact, every restaurant crew I saw at McDonald’s that day seemed very versatile, being able to alternate between roles depending on what the customers needed.
Even the person whose main task was cleaning, was able to step up and help the customers with the SOK. It all ties back to one of McDonald’s culture pillars that they are “better together”, delivering feel good moments. Roles did not matter, but their customers’ needs did.
It was at this point that I had another major misconception corrected.
Chatting with the restaurant crew, I found that they were pretty different from what I’d always imagined. If you asked me to profile one in the past, this is what I would have said: young, probably a student, working to earn pocket money or as a stable side-gig while pursuing another career.
What I found?
Some of them had been with McDonald’s Malaysia for 8 years and more; the Restaurant General Manager was a veteran with 22 years under her belt.
In fact, two of the staff I was partnered with are Guest Experience Leaders (GEL). This is the final step right before they can apply to become managers. Many of them stay because they love the people, and they’re hungry for the career progression.
After all, it doesn’t stop with becoming a Restaurant General Manager; you could even end up managing a region or beyond. There is opportunity for career advancement and development at every level within the McDonald’s structure.
I also learned that just recently, they partnered with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) for an MBA programme. McDonald’s employees who have completed selected in-house training modules can transfer these as credits for the MBA programme.
Another observation I had was that everyone is just… happy.
Sure, you’d think kids would be happy, because McDonald’s would appeal to them. But I’m not talking about the little ones.
The crew were smiling and even laughing at times throughout the day, and you could see they had plenty of inside jokes to go around.
What Fatin Nadiah, the Shift Manager on duty, 7 years in McDonald’s, shared with me shed a bit of light behind the smiles.
“We’re all family members here. Sure, it gets stressful if there are many customers, but despite the stress, we keep laughing and joking and supporting each other, and then we’re not tired,” she said.
My final task of the day was right in the service area, helping to get the food ready for takeout or in-restaurant dining right before the trays go onto the counter—part of their EOTF Dual Point Service feature. This involved adding the servings of fries, making sure the drinks and desserts were on the trays, and also adding serviettes, cutlery, sauces, or condiments.
This was by far the most hectic part of my day, because at times, the orders did not stop coming.
I got so caught up with it that I had to be called about 3-4 times before I realised that my shift was over, for a group shot.
I’d only taken a 4-hour plus shift, with a break in between, and I was already tired.
The restaurant staff work in 8-hour shifts (9 for the Restaurant General Manager), and they were still cheerfully bustling around as I wearily walked back to my car. Did I mention that they were happy? Because that’s how they looked.
It would be corny and clichéd to say that I now have a new appreciation for the food I eat, but as someone who values a good company culture, I think I found a pretty good example in McDonald’s Malaysia.
Working in a restaurant is not for everyone, but if you’re good with your hands, have a good attitude, and you enjoy interacting with people, they might just have a place for you—and there is good opportunity for career advancement too.
- You can find out more about McDonald’s Malaysia here.