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Business

McDonald's in Germany aims for makeover with table service

McDonald's plans to introduce table service in Germany. It wants to do that at least in some locations in a bid to halt sliding sales by going slightly upscale relative to its present style.

On Monday in Frankfurt, McDonald's Germany CEO Holger Beeck presided over the re-opening of a renovated 500-seat McDonald's restaurant at the airport - the biggest McDonald's in the country, at 2,500 square meters of floor space. The renovation cost the company a hefty 8.5 million euros ($9.2 million).

The company has introduced several new features at its flagship store. Perhaps the most important: diners seated in special sections of the flagship store now have the option of getting served at their table, after placing an order either at the front counter, at a digital kiosk, or with a staffer carrying a tablet PC.

Table service has been available in restaurants in Europe for millennia, but as Thomas Brand, head of development and restaurant innovation for Germany, told a company magazine: "This is completely new for McDonald's."

Among other features, the Frankfurt McDonald's has a big play area for kids, and games that can be played at tables. In addition, customers will be able to make special requests - for example, they'll be able to ask for an extra slice of pickle or a bit less bacon on their burgers.

The company claims that in future, all meals will be prepared on order, and not pre-prepared, to improve freshness.

"This year, we have eight new openings planned in Germany, and they'll all be equipped like [the flagship store in Frankfurt]," said Beeck.

European sales down

Germany is a tough market for McDonald's. The country's fast-food industry is very competitive, not least because of Germany's 3.5 million citizens of Turkish heritage, including many fast-food entrepreneurs who have successfully introduced "Dönerbuden" - kebab shacks - all over the country. Although there are about 1,500 McDonald's stores in Germany, there are at least ten times that many Dönerbuden in the country.

Other changes are expected at McDonald's too, now that the company has a new CEO. Steve Easterbrook, a Briton, is only the second non-US citizen to take the helm of the vast fast-food enterprise. His challenge: To halt a world-wide slide in sales. McDonald's customer appeal has, it seems, been getting a little tired.

Among other things, Easterbrook has said that McDonald's USA would switch to using chicken meat raised with fewer antibiotics. The move appears to be a response to competition from Chipotle Mexican grill Inc., Chick-fil-A and other chains, which have been grabbing market share.

Britain, France, Russia and Germany together accounted for two-thirds of European revenue in 2013. European sales were down 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

nz/hg (dpa, Reuters)

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