Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Pop Up McDonald's Container Outlet in Germany ?

McDonald's has always sought to make a big impression at Frankfurt Airport.

It is apparent from the design integrity of the top floor food court, that McDonald's was involved in the creative input to the space themed environment at the ultra modern Frankfurt Terminal 2, which opened in 1994, but still appears fresh thanks to its polished marble flooring, grey and blue colour scheme and paired back industrial girder prominent design.


We always chuckled, back in the days when I lived and worked there, about the tourism statistic that reported the airport was in the top three most visited places in Germany.  For historic reasons and partly a function of Germany's federated organisation the national financial centre also hosts the premier aviation hub, despite a small city population of less than 2m.  Supposedly, as well as being the start and or end point of numerous airlines flight operations including hosting Germany's national airline Lufthansa's main base, it was also a popular spot to go and hang out.  Ok, it did benefit from an integrated train station, and special dispensation on retail operations, I often ended up doing my shopping at the supermarket at the airport.  Odd ?  You wonder why perhaps ?   I tended to find that regular shops were only open when I was either working or asleep, with weekend opening strongly resisted by works councils to protect the family lives of shop workers.  And, yes, back in the days of early aviation, airports were of interest for their spectacle, as flying was beyond the means of many, the preserve of the rich and senior business executives.  But perhaps my geeky analyst issue is a misconception around an over exacting Teutonic categorisation of 'visitor attraction'.  Whatever.

Everyone's doing selfies these days - even Justin !
It has been more than six years since I have visited Frankfurt and I was delighted to spot a rare stand alone McCafe, positioned just prior to the security point that delineates airside from landside.  A while back and in response to the trend towards coffee houses, led by US Starbucks, McDonald's experimented in a number of markets and locations with a specialist hot drinks and snacks marketing mix.  A really short menu proposition.  They have also dramatically improved their standard coffee offering, a clear game changer, I am now very happy to take coffee there.  Unlike UK inspired trend for airside, luxury oriented duty free shopping malls, Frankfurt Airport Group have sought to position their retailing offerings to be accessible to the wider airport community, including meeters and greeters, staff, visitors and ancillary service providers without security passes.  Oh, and smokers too ! 

McCafe - very drinkable
Of course the McDonald's brand experience has a lot to answer for.  I spent too much time during my youth travelling the world and popping into the Golden Arches to purvey their offering and investigating the nature of international product differences.  This led on to guest lecturing on the brand to Lancaster University BSc entrepreneurs, publishing case studies in one of Europe's leading marketing text books and then of course, a career change into academia.  So Ronald has played an influential role in my life !  You can honestly say I'm lovin' it !

So, you may have sensed, I have an enduring passion for all things related to the brand and will often nerdily be seen casting a critical eye over the restaurants I visit.  This is now more frequent than my waist line can reasonably cope with, as both my boys are keen on MickeyD's (KFC is their number one by the way, for balance). I still hope that one day Gill McDonald (a former BA colleague and CEO of McDonald's UK) will invite me to give customer insights as part of their marketing research and product innovation.

Imagine my delight and surprise to see a shiny red and yellow container (like those you see on big ships) on the arrivals level of Frankfurt airport recently.  A pop up and reasonably portable kitchen format that offered screened off standing tables for 'eat-in' customers.  Located at the head of the multi-lane taxi rank, overlooking an autobahn underpass on the extreme limit of the airport footprint.
This was such an ingenious interpretation of convenience, and yet so at odds with my own experience of retailing in Germany from the late 1990's.  It would seem to naturally appeal to taxi drivers who would be unlikely to leave their cars for the significant journey to the top of the terminal to visit the impressive signature  restaurant.  And not forgetting smokers, banned from puffing inside the building, but happy to have a drink and bite to eat outside.  I noted that the point of sale images highlighted the fries and coffee options, although a shorter than usual range of burgers were on offer too.  A whole McDonald's kitchen in a container.  Amazing.
The whole thing seemed to be designed to pack away into the container, but craftily slide apart for operation, tripling its footprint in so doing.  The ultimate* solution for time limited events like the Olympics, festivals and holiday periods.  Remember, Christmas markets abound in German cities, something they have been doing really well for a long time.  Limited storage could be over come through sharing, as needed, lean or just in time deliveries and storage capacity with the larger mother store. Remember that McDonald's standardisation requires the use of in house branded food and packaging materials, you will probably find the company headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois features on the sachets of tomato sauce.  Franchise operators cannot just pop down to the cash and carry to stock up on generic disposable plates and cups.
Tosin, a recently graduated Royal Holloway MBA who I helped undertake her dissertation on the use of truck based mobile retail for a highly successful late entrant telecoms operator in Nigeria.  This seems to be another nifty distribution innovation, I really was not expecting to come across this in the forecourt of Frankfurt Airport, of all places.  Remote communities see mobile libraries and banks.  eCommerce has enabled supermarket home delivery services.  We are used to seeing Kebab and burger vans operate out of caravans, trailers and sizeable trucks, but to see a strong brand like McDonald's start doing the same is quite eye opening.  More to come ?
*Again for balance, some of my colleagues do not include wider fast food distribution in their version of Nirvana.

Peter spotted this in Shanghai, China serving shakes and ice creams

McD's shake shack ?