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Leadership , Talk Story – January 11, 2019

Talk Story: Brad Miles of McDonald’s Restaurants of Hawaii

Photo: David Croxford

In March, Brad Miles became director of operations for the 74 Hawaii McDonald’s restaurants, as well as eight locations on Guam and two on Saipan.

Originally from Australia, Miles has been with the fast-food company since 2003; while still Down Under he oversaw initiatives such as mobile ordering and table service. His goal is to similarly modernize Hawaii’s restaurants.

Q: McDonald’s has invested heavily in technology. In the past year, the company has incorporated self-ordering kiosks at many local locations and rolled out a mobile app. Is this improving customer experience?

Miles: We call all this “experience of the future.” When this rolls all together, it’s like layering platforms on top of each other to change the customer’s perception and experience. It allows the customer to choose how they want to be served. The old traditional standard would be drive-thru or the front counter. With the experience of the future, you can now get served through kiosks, through the drive-thru, through the counter, through the mobile app or through the curbside pickup. It’s also added table delivery so if they dine in they can place their order at the kiosk, counter or mobile app and the crew person takes their food to them.

Q: Has that resulted in more people coming in?

Miles: The modernization and the new technologies have definitely increased the amount of customers coming to us.

Q: McDonald’s has 74 locations across Hawaii. Will all restaurants integrate this technology?

Miles: About 50 percent of our restaurants have been modernized and have experience of the future. The remaining restaurants will be completed in 2019.

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November 2018 was McDonald’s 50th anniversary in the Islands, marking the opening of the first local restaurant, in Aina Haina.

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Q: Automation sometimes creates the fear of job loss. How does McDonald’s new technology strategy affect jobs at its local restaurants?

Miles: The introduction of kiosks, the mobile app and the curbside pickup were not to reduce crew numbers. They actually increase the number of staff we have in the restaurants. We’ve introduced a guest experience leader; that’s an additional role prior to experience of the future. Their role is to be in the dining room and greet customers and take the table delivery orders and support on kiosks if a customer needs help. Because the modernization of restaurants does increase sales, we need to have more staff. There will be fewer people at the counter, but now they’re in the dining room.

Q: On average, how many people work in a McDonald’s restaurant?

Miles: Most restaurants average between 40 and 70 staff, depending on the restaurant’s volume. We have around 4,600 staff across the Islands. The average staff person stays with us currently for four years. The average manager
is around 18 years.

Q: How has your work in Australia influenced your role as director of operations in the Islands?

Miles: I’m lucky that I had a similar role back in Australia. I ran the south Australia market, which had 53 restaurants. I’ve been able to use that experience when I came here. Probably the biggest benefit is Australia rolled out experience of the future two or three years ahead of the U.S. The market I ran back there was the trial market for table delivery so we helped national develop all the tools.

Q: Are you experiencing any challenges or differences as you roll out those initiatives locally?

Miles: The 2 percent unemployment rate here is definitely a challenge in our industry. It’s also a different demographic of employees. Australia’s is a younger workforce in the quick service industry and here it’s all age groups.

Q: How do you deal with Hawaii’s low unemployment?

Miles: It’s thinking outside of the box: How do we better leverage the great people practices we already have within McDonald’s? We give scholarships to high school seniors every year in Hawaii. And there’s also the national English Under the Arches program, Archway to Opportunity tuition assistance. That one started in 2015 and since then, staff in Hawaii have been given over $70,000.

Q: How many owner-operators are there in Hawaii?

Miles: Across Hawaii, 53 locations are operated by owner-operators and the remaining 21 are operated by the corporation. There’s a commitment from the owner-operators in Hawaii. They support Ronald McDonald House Charities and donate 5 cents from every Happy Meal to the organization. The national commitment is 1 cent, but in Hawaii they upped it to 5 cents. The commitment the owner-operators have in their local communities in giving back is exceptional.

Q: Which locations are the busiest?

Miles: On Oahu, the busiest restaurants by guest volume are Wahiawa, Keeaumoku Street and South Beretania Street.

This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

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