Minimizing food waste for everyone's favorite lettuce, pickles, patties and buns

Mc Donald's nuggs
Mc Donald's double meat
Mc Donald's burger

Minimizing food waste and making every restaurant more efficient through an easy-to-use inventory system that could be used in sub-zero temperatures and the day-to-day reality of a busy kitchen.

what we did

User Testing


The client

We’re Lovin’ It

McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, with over 40,000 locations serving 25 million customers every day. The company has been operating for almost 70 years, and while many of their systems have been refreshed, a few were still in need of an upgrade. 

So, they came to us to see if we could help streamline their workflow in the kitchens, and make things run even smoother. 

Mc Donalds restaurant
the challenge

Getting out of the 1980's

One of the things McDonald’s has to carefully manage is food inventory. It’s how the restaurants stay stocked, how they keep from overbuying food that will ultimately go to waste, and how they know exactly how much to order in the future. 

People workingPeople workingPeople workingPeople working

The stock system was still being done in pencil and paper and loaded into a system designed in the 1980’s.

Because of this, stock information was often incorrect, so managers took to ordering more food than necessary to compensate for the system’s limitations. Enter Aerolab with some new, fresh digital solutions.

What People Needed

We interviewed managers, sales associates, and the operations team to understand frustrations with the existing system.

This gave us how the process was being used and how it could be improved.:

  • And one insight was clear — no one enjoyed entering the same information into half a dozen systems, multiple times a day.

  • In addition, we clocked that the behind-the-counter crew gets interrupted (on average) every 10 minutes. This makes doing any kind of detail-oriented work exceedingly difficult. 

With this in mind, we developed a two-prong solution.

  • Check board

    Keep track of the stock more efficiently.

  • Call bell

    Create better tools so management could have more accurate information.

Designing for Dynamic Environments

The app we developed needed to have a low cognitive overhead so people could easily input information despite interruptions.

screenshot app productscreenshot app productscreenshot app productscreenshot app product
Every feature has one input on the screen at a time, helps someone focus on one simple task, trusting the app to keep track of the count and next steps.

We also made the stock system do all the math, eliminating any possibility for human error.

An OS that Works in Sub-Zero Temperatures

While the original paper and pencil system seemed incredibly old fashioned, there was a good reason for it. Most of the stock inventory takes place in a walk-in sub-zero fridge, which is so cold it makes the ink in pens freeze within minutes.Knowing the user would be dressed for the cold while in the fridge, we designed a thick, glove-friendly interface for a ruggedized tablet that could support low temperatures.

screenshot app productscreenshot app product
McDonalds logo

By making the UI simpler and task-oriented, the user could get interrupted, take care of something else, then quickly jump back into the task without making a mistake or losing progress.


Minimizing Food Waste

Avoiding the potentialfor food waste

As expiration dates approached on ingredients, we had the stock system automatically send recommendations to transfer excess product to another local restaurant in the network. This automated a process that was previously done by text.This enabled food to be used where it was needed, while helping restaurants operate more efficiently.

app screenshot example

Making things run efficiently

To help tie all this together, we added a new task management system that unified all of the to-do lists.

screenshot product app

Now everyone knows what needs to be done by what time and who’s responsible for each task.

Coupled with some automated recommendations and controls, we made sure everyone could do their job faster and more efficiently.

While the app was designed and tested in-store with a team, we made sure to run workshops for the managers and crew at other branches to help explain the logic behind the changes and how to transition to the new system seamlessly.

The new app was an incredible success — a launching point for integrating automation into all of the restaurants in the region.

team workteam work
Andrea Presta's profile picture
Andrea Presta

Manager of Corporate Projects


“Aerolab had a wonderful impact with this product. I love working with your team. Everyone is extremely professional and talented, especially for such a critical project for the company.”