4 Big Fast Food Chains Making Drastic Changes Right Now – Eat This Not That

While summer is usually the time to offer fun seasonal dishes at most fast food chains, over the past few months a number of major companies have announced plans for significant, long-term changes in their operations. Whether you’re a Chipotle fan or a Subway regular, the status quo is about to change.

From a whole new set of ownership rules to improved employee benefits, here’s a look at four big chains that are making significant changes to the way they operate.

RELATED: 14 Controversial Rules Fast Food Workers Must Follow

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Following May’s announcement of a new restaurant ranking system, McDonald’s upped the ante last month with a new set of restaurant ownership rules.

Franchisees will be held to higher standards under the new rules, with franchise applications and renewals subject to a more comprehensive review process. In its decision to renew and award franchise contracts, McDonald’s will place more weight on performance history and customer complaints, and will conduct more in-store inspections.

The chain is also taking steps to phase out old franchises: spouses and children of franchisees will no longer receive preferential treatment when applying to run their own restaurants and will be treated as new applicants.

subway restaurant exterior
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The company unveiled its new Subway series earlier this month, a menu of 12 new sandwiches that the chain hopes will simplify operations in its stores.

While Subway is famous for letting customers design their own sandwiches (and is credited with popularizing the customer-facing assembly line), the chain is moving away from personalization with the new menu, hoping to streamline business and boost sales.

The new menu follows last year’s Eat Fresh, Refresh campaign, during which the chain updated its menu with new and improved ingredients.

starbucks cafe exterior
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After a tumultuous year for America’s largest coffeehouse chain, it looks like big changes are afoot behind the scenes. In a recent open letter to employees, interim CEO Howard Schulz announced the arrival of the “next chapter in the reinvention of Starbucks”. Seeking to prepare “for the changing behaviors, needs and expectations of [its] the partners [and] customers”, the company seems to be rethinking its operations from the ground up.

Schultz outlined plans for a transformed customer experience (the company promised more details on how it will get there soon.) Starbucks will also rethink its relationship with its employees. In the face of a growing union organizing movement that began last year, Starbucks is proposing a number of measures to appease its workers, including increased investment in employee safety and increased opportunities for career advancement.

chipotle restaurant exterior
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Like other fast food chains, Chipotle is investing heavily in automation and AI. The burrito chain signed a deal in 2021 with autonomous delivery startup Nuro, and a few months ago unveiled “Chippy,” an AI-powered chip-making robot (which will be piloted at a Chipotle later this year).

The company has also invested in AI-powered workforce management tools, helping to more efficiently staff its restaurants and train its employees. More recently, Chipotle announced Cultivate Next, a $50 million venture capital fund to accelerate investments in labor-saving technology and improve customer experience.

Owen Duff

Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more

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