McDonald's kicks off network transformation with Telstra

Under a AU$90 million deal with McDonald's Australia, Telstra will provide a fibre network across 850 stores, Telstra Air Wi-Fi coverage, and unified communications service TIPT.

The Australian McDonald's restaurant chain will undertake a network transformation under a AU$90 million deal announced with telecommunications provider Telstra.

Under the deal, announced during the annual Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne on Thursday, Telstra will roll out a fibre network to around 850 McDonald's venues across the nation.

Telstra said the "umbrella" fibre network will be used by McDonald's to enhance its operations and provide customers with a connected brand experience, as well as increasing cost and time efficiencies for licensees.

The fibre rollout is predicted to take around 24 months to complete, but Telstra said a "significant number" of restaurants will be operating on the new network within the next year.

The partnership also sees the creation of Telstra's biggest business deal for its Wi-Fi network Telstra Air to date, with hundreds of stores in addition to 35 Ronald McDonald Houses across the country to become new hotspots.

The deal, which forms an important part of McDonald's digital transformation in Australia, will lastly see the provision of Telstra's IP Telephony (TIPT) unified communications solution to replace the restaurant giant's traditional legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN).

TIPT is a fully managed cloud service providing medium and large enterprises with a unified communication solution supporting voice, video, messaging, mobility, and collaboration; Telstra said it could be used by McDonald's for such applications as enabling video conferencing and collaboration between head office and individual stores.

"Our partnership with Telstra is one of the most transformative technology infrastructure projects ever undertaken by McDonald's Australia, providing a world-class network for now and a platform for innovation and growth in the future," McDonald's Australia CIO Scott Green said.

"Our new network will provide more speed and reliability, creating better connectivity experiences for our customers, and enhance key restaurant operations for our back office."

One previous digital project by McDonald's Australia involved deploying a series of Intel-powered touchscreen kiosks across the country, which Intel Australia MD Kate Burleigh last year said was a prime example of the concept of a co-creation economy.

"The Create Your Taste phenomena has just gone nuts in Australia," Burleigh said.

"I won't spill the stats on this from a McDonald's point of view, but the reality is that they have had huge increase in sales because when you put the controller in the consumer's hand, no one sells up better than the consumer themselves."

Burleigh said the McDonald's in-store digital kiosks also retrieve customer data from the system to record learnings of customer preferences and behaviours.

In the United States, McDonald's last year announced that it would be aiming to launch mobile ordering and payments in 2017 across 10 major markets in an effort to become what president Chris Kempczinski called a "modern, progressive burger company".

Mobile ordering was designed to improve food accuracy and wait times, Kempczinski said at the time, and followed similar offerings by competitors Starbucks, Domino's, Dunkin Donuts, Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Wendy's.

Some fast-food restaurants in Australia and New Zealand have taken this digitisation even further, with pizza company Domino's using its autonomous delivery vehicle DRU in Australia and trialling a successful drone pizza delivery in New Zealand.

Last month, John Boyd, CIO of Australian food chain Mad Mex, told ZDNet that his company's digital transformation could see it use Microsoft Azure machine-learning capabilities in future.

"When you think about how much big data is coming from several different sources -- sales, Wi-Fi, Facebook, loyalty information, promotion -- there's so many different sources of information and the key is personalisation and differentiation," Boyd told ZDNet.

"Having an ability to identify trends and use predictive analysis to actually understand what the customer is going to do in-store, so you can determine different triggers to develop growth and ultimately get to that point where you can truly predict and understand behaviour."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra

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