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Future of fast-food service arrives in Bellingham

See some of the changes at McDonald's near Bellis Fair

A look at some of the changes to McDonald's on West Telegraph Road on Thursday, June 1, in Bellingham.
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A look at some of the changes to McDonald's on West Telegraph Road on Thursday, June 1, in Bellingham.

McDonald’s is making major changes to the way it provides customer service, and one of the first places it is starting with is in Bellingham.

The company is introducing its new concept restaurant on Sunday, June 4. Along with showing customers the new changes at the McDonald’s restaurant at 101 W. Telegraph Road near Bellis Fair, the company will donate 50 percent of its sales that day to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation. The McDonald’s food truck will also be in the parking lot, passing out free orders of french fries from noon to 2 p.m.

The goal of the renovation is to improve customer experience, said Jim Campbell, local franchise owner. He also noted this is among the biggest changes he’s seen in the 30 years he’s been operating McDonald’s in Whatcom County, ranking up there with the introduction of the drive-through window and adding breakfast.

The biggest changes customers will notice is the introduction of self-ordering kiosks and table-side service. With the kiosks, customers can put in their order with a touchscreen – they can also pay for their orders there with a credit or debit card. Customers can then take a seat and wait for the food to be brought out to them.

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Bev Wiltshire and her grandchildren Cora Schrengohst, right, and Betty Schrengohst, left, try out a new ordering kiosk at McDonald's on Telegraph Road Thursday, June 1, in Bellingham. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

Customers can still go the traditional route of telling a person behind the counter their order and paying cash, but they might find some advantages by trying the kiosk, Campbell said. One advantage is for parents – children are drawn to the touchscreens and the idea of helping place their own order. It also means less standing around and waiting for wiggly, hungry kids, he said.

The kiosks also provide plenty of choices if customers want them, such as adding extra mustard or ketchup to the burger. It also has technology to let the employees know where the customer is sitting so there’s no confusion on where to take the order.

The kiosks are expected to be in many of the other Whatcom County McDonald’s restaurants in the next year.

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Bev Wiltshire and her grandchildren Cora Schrengohst, right, and Betty Schrengohst, left, try out a new ordering kiosk at McDonald's on Telegraph Road Thursday, June 1, in Bellingham. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

Other changes include adding a delivery and mobile ordering service through UberEats, which is officially arriving in Bellingham on Monday. New items are also being added to the menu and the employees have new uniforms. At the Telegraph Road McDonald’s, there is also a new play area and the seating area has been redesigned to have more of a cafe look.

The mobile ordering service is scheduled to be rolled out to the 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants by the end of 2017.

With the addition of touchscreen kiosks, does that mean fewer workers?

Campbell said no, adding that labor will be redistributed, with more people working in the kitchen area. He currently has 47 employees at the Telegraph Road restaurant and 340 in the eight Whatcom County McDonald’s. He’s hoping this new system will mean more employees because there are many more ways to order the food and employees are needed to handle those new orders.

“This is not being done as a way to save labor (costs), but as a way to grow the pie,” Campbell said.

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A look at the tap beer lineup at the Fairhaven Pizza’zza, which was recently remodeled. The restaurant is at 1501 12th St. and includes an expanded kitchen and more seating. Daisey James Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

FAIRHAVEN’S PIZZA’ZZA HAS NEW LOOK

Pizza’zza is having a little party to celebrate its remodeled Fairhaven restaurant.

The grand opening event is 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 with live music, games and a beer garden.

For nearly 14 years, Pizza’zza operated as a carryout operation inside Yorky’s Market at 1501 12th St., according to a company news release. After Yorky’s closed at the end of December, work began in remodeling the space. The updated space includes a craft bottle shop and 18 taps with beer, wine, cider, kombucha and soda. It also has an expanded kitchen with two Wood Stone ovens and seating for 74 people.

Along with pizza, other food options include grinders, toasted sandwiches and salads. The company also has a restaurant inside Yorky’s Market at 2418 Alabama St. and a food truck. Details about the company can be found on its website.

MELVIN BREWING OPENS IN BELLINGHAM

Wyoming-based Melvin Brewing is opening its first brewpub in Bellingham on Saturday, June 3. The brewpub is at 2416 Meridian St.

The brewpub will feature 20 beers on tap ranging from $4 to $9 each, according to a news release from the company. The food offerings will have an American brewpub focus, including burgers and wings. Happy hour will be 4-6 p.m. and 10-11 p.m. every day.

Along with the brewpub, the facility will also have a brewing facility that is expected to be in operation later this year.

The brewpub will be open 4-11 p.m. every day. Details about Melvin Brewing can be found on its website.

OTHER TIDBITS

MAC Cosmetics is aiming for a July 7 opening at Bellis Fair, said Rene Morris, the mall’s general manager. ... A state liquor license application was submitted for a beer specialty shop called Growlers Keep in Bakerview Square. The applicants are Robert Petersen, Paulette Petersen, James Sullivan and Rachel Sullivan.

A sentence was added on June 5 about McDonald’s mobile ordering arriving at its14,000 restaurants by the end of the year. A sentence about when the new concept would arrive at all the McDonald’s restaurants was removed on June 5.

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