HANNIBAL | The grand opening at Hannibal's McDonald's looked a bit different than Owner/ Operator Bob Gilstrap had imagined when the old building was demolished 70 days ago, but precautions in response to the coronavirus didn't dampen the excitement everyone was feeling on Thursday morning.
Gilstrap said employees got the opportunity to practice using the restaurant's new equipment and serving customers during Friends and Family Night on Wednesday, with longtime employee Debbie McKay taking the first order from Gilstrap. Employees wearing face masks and gloves were busy preparing food items Thursday morning, checking supplies and preparing for drive-through customers to begin arriving at 11 a.m. The transition from demolishing the 41-year-old former restaurant to serving customers took about 70 days, and Gilstrap commended Ossman Construction and McDonald's for helping surpass the typical construction time orders to begin in the expanded lobby on Wednesday, May 27.
The opportunity to see all of the new building will come in phases. Gilstrap said dine-in service will occur at a later date, as more and more customers are comfortable with the situation. When carry-out service begins, precautions will be in place like a one-way path for customers with employees serving drinks.
“We're doing everything we can to keep our people safe, and let our customers know that we're keeping them safe,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap's daughter and director of operations, Ashley Orscheln, said the dining area now has a capacity of 102 customers, up from 89. Gilstrap said the basement in the back half of the old restaurant was removed during the demolition phase, and the resulting space was added to the rear of the new store.
As he looked outside, Gilstrap said Orscheln set up a variety of plants as she set up the overall design for the restaurant and landscaping.
“She said 'well, we're going to need a lot of plants to soften it up,'” Gilstrap said, noting the different heights and textures conveys a unique look outside.
Gilstrap said the front counter and dining area layout “feels the same” for team members, but things are completely revamped behind the counter, with a focus on boosting efficiency and minimizing fatigue for employees. A new “drive-through support” hallway runs from the front drive-through area to the front of the store, allowing crew members to take orders in a smoother and more efficient way while making time-consuming menu items like ice cream cones, coffee drinks and frozen drinks.
Gilstrap said there will be “much more ability for teamwork” with the new drive-through layout supporting about 10 employees instead of three. And the new conveyor belt system in the grill area drastically cuts down on the amount of distance each employee has to cover — an employee used to walk 1.2 miles per day in normal volume periods — the distance has been reduced to .2 miles per day.
“All of this is the most efficient method of production that we could have,” Gilstrap said. “It's the newest and most efficient so it's easier for the people.”
Gilstrap said when the dining room opens up, he expects the new touchscreen order kiosks will be particularly popular with members of younger generations who grew up with the technology. Along with the new high-tech ordering option, new registers sat behind plastic guards at the front counter.ManagerColleen Stout checked out one of the new machines with her daughter, and her boss, Bethany Gaw.
Stout looked over some materials as she prepared for the grand opening. She shared the word uttered by several people inside and outside the new restaurant — “excited.”
“This new store is awesome,” Stout said, stressing what made her most happy about returning.
“I'm excited to be back to work where I get to see people — it helps with that quarantine feeling. They're family, everyone I'm working with is family here. We all know each other. It's nice to be back in that.”
Stout said she was eager for the day when the lobby opens up for customers again, and her daughter shared the level of enthusiasm.
“We're all very, very excited,” Gaw said. “We haven't gotten to see our customers for quite a while, so we're happy to see them back.”
Gilstrap felt the same way, and he looks forward to the chance to reconnect with customers who have been eager for the grand opening day.
“We serve about 2,000 guests a day, and those 2,000 people are going to start coming back, and we've been missing them and they've been missing us,” Gilstrap said. “And the other thing I'm really proud of is 99% of our employees returned — they could've gone somewhere else—but99%are the same old folks, and 25 new ones.”