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McDonald's Is Opening a New Innovation Lab in Its Home City

The chain is moving its innovation team closer to home.

Once upon a time, the Big Mac was the most innovative burger on the scene. But a fast-food giant like McDonald's can't simply rest on its decades-old achievements if it wants to maintain its number 1 status. So naturally, an innovation lab is a crucial part of its business.

To that end, the chain is planning on launching Speedee Labs—a brand new innovation hub at its Chicago headquarters. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it was borrowed from McDonald's pre-Ronald McDonald mascot, and is also the name of the 1948 McDonald's service system used to speed service, according to Restaurant Business.

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The Lab will take up some 15,000 square feet and serve as a point of collaboration between the chain's existing innovation team, which is currently operating out of Romeoville, Ill., and its corporate team. It is expected to open in the second half of 2023.

"The creation of Speedee Labs will enable more of our customers, restaurant teams, markets, and global teams to contribute to our innovation while driving growth and creating more seamless and memorable McDonald's experiences," says Manu Steijaert, McDonald's chief customer officer, in a statement.

Streamlined kitchen processes, updated cooking methods, McDelivery, mobile order and pay—amongst many other things—can be attributed to the work of the chain's current Innovation Center. So we can only imagine what will come from the new and improved labs.

But we do have a few hints from Mickey D's. The chain entered into a strategic partnership with IBM in 2021 to help with the development of its automated order-taking technology (those screens that help you order food yourself), along with its drive-thru lanes. It also started focusing more on the mobile app and collaboration with technology partner Ayden on its loyalty program. Last year, MyMcDonald's Rewards, the company's first national loyalty program in the United States, was rolled out through the mobile app.

All employees from the Romeoville location will be transferred to Chicago, adding to more than 14,000 jobs the chain supports in its home city.

"I am thrilled that McDonald's is continuing to bet on Chicago by adding Speedee Labs to their global headquarters," says Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement. "This new addition will draw even more visitors from around the world to our city, and I look forward to welcoming them as they come to collaborate and innovate with this iconic brand."

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Read more about Danielle