How Fast Food Chains Use Data to Test New Products and Drive Sales

How Fast Food Chains Use Data to Test New Products and Drive Sales

In the days of Cheetos-mac and cheese mashups and boxes of chicken that double as phone chargers, it can seem as if fast food restaurants introduce new products on a whim. But there’s actually an extensive decision-making process behind even some of the most mundane-seeming aspects of a fast food company’s business – especially if it involves technology in any way.

Thanks to software testing and data analytics, fast food chains can test the financial impact of a menu item before it rolls out nationwide. Lately, though, drive-thru chains are utilizing software to test a more new-fangled concept: How tech can impact sales and, in some cases, replace human workers. Turns out, consumers seem to like the idea.

Take McDonald’s menu boards, for instance.

At a company shareholder meeting in May, CEO Steve Easterbrook touted the chain’s ability to “merchandise different items in different day parts and according to the weather.” That’s because the menu boards are digital – in the morning, menus highlight breakfast items, while burgers and chicken sandwiches make their debut on the screen during lunch hours. But the menus can even change based on whether its rainy (because people tend to crave specific foods during bouts of bad weather) or sunny.

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