Reducing Waste for Consumers Through Lean and Continuous Improvement

I'll start this post out with a confession: I was at McDonald's the other evening. I know that for some people, a trip to McDonald's counts as a personal defeat, but hey, I enjoy those fries from time to time. Anyway, on this particular trip the drive-through was packed which led my wife and me…

I'll start this post out with a confession: I was at McDonald's the other evening. I know that for some people, a trip to McDonald's counts as a personal defeat, but hey, I enjoy those fries from time to time. Anyway, on this particular trip the drive-through was packed which led my wife and me to go inside (for the first time in years). I ordered a drink and some fries and my wife got ice cream. While we were eating, I noticed some improvements that they have implemented since the last time I set foot in a McDonald's restaurant. I'd like to commend them on some waste elimination.

Ketchup pumps: I always remember having packs of ketchup in little bins that I could take and use to my heart's desire. I also remember having about a half-dozen of them left on my tray by the time I was done with my meal. In a waste-elimination effort, a ketchup pump would be a great idea. I filled one of the small paper cups and had a seat. About halfway through my pail of fries, I had emptied this cup of ketchup and went back for more. By the time everything was done, I had a very insignificant amount of unused ketchup, which is a stark contrast to the times of my childhood of having plenty of packets that inevitably ended up in the garbage.

Trash compactor: Technology is always cool to see in action, but when I observed the trash bins compacting the garbage inside, I thought it was a great way to maximize the amount of usage they can get out of a single bag. However, this is not just a reduction in trash bags but it also leads to a reduction in manpower required to empty the bins. If they can get double the trash in each bag by compacting it after tray dump, it only requires half the manpower to empty it.

Soda cups: Alright, this one is a stretch, but I feel like it is a waste-elimination effort nonetheless. When I ordered, I noticed that they did not give me my soda cup right away. I could have sworn up and down they used to deliver those to you immediately as your order finished, but not this time. Whenever I get a soda cup right as I'm done ordering the first thing I do is head to the soda fountain and fill it up while I'm standing there waiting for food. Then, once I have food, I head back to the fountain, top it off, and find a seat. So by giving me the cup with my food, McDonald's is reducing their soda consumption by what, maybe 8oz per customer? It might not seem like a lot, but I'm sure it adds up over time.

There is a delicious balance between eliminating waste and making sure your customers are satisfied. I'm certain that if I had asked for my soda cup at the time I completed my order, they would have been happy to give it to me. I did not mind waiting for the cup with the completed order and I did not mind the lack of ketchup packets. I will continue to go to McDonald's as often as my lapses in dietary judgment permit. However, if they had been so stingy as to keep ketchup behind the counter and dole it out in very limited quantities, I would not be returning. They have figured out how to strike a balance between eliminating waste and keeping customers satisfied, and for that, I commend them.