How to deal with IT disruptions: McDonald’s moves on to burger and better things

McDonald’s experienced a global IT failure, which resulted in some restaurants shutting down, while others only accepted cash. Here's what we can learn from their response.

On 15 March, 2024, the fast food giant experienced a global IT failure that resulted in some restaurants shutting down, while others only accepted cash and had to write their receipts by hand.

What we can learn from their response

  1. Remain transparent

Do not try to hide the problem. 

Customers will be more patient with you if they understand what is going on. They, like you, may have some experience with an IT issue and they’ll know that in time it will be fixed. So rather than pretending that everything is fine, communicate the issue and an expected timeline (if possible) via appropriate channels. 

Global Chief Information Officer Brian Rice posted on Mcdonald’s website admitting there was a system outage and explained: “Many markets are back online, and the rest are in the process of coming back online.” 

He added: “This issue was not directly caused by a cybersecurity event; rather, it was caused by a third-party provider during a configuration change.”

He also didn’t try and pretend it wasn’t anything but annoying, acknowledging “I know how frustrating it can be”. 

  1. Empower your staff

When the chips are down, you need your staff to rally behind the cause. Giving your staff the tools and the bandwidth to come up with alternative solutions instead of their normal IT systems will help keep the business running (if not smoothly then at least acceptably) for the time being. 

This can mean anything from staff answering questions and explaining the issue clearly to customers, or continuing the service with alterations, such as accepting cash or delayed payments, depending on the business model. 

Some McDonald’s branches shut down, while others rose to the challenge, accepted cash, and even hand-wrote receipts on paper. 

  1. Speed is of the essence

It’s not just their food that’s fast: Mcdonald’s was speedy to fix the issue. 

When a systemic IT issue appears, it’s time to focus resources on fixing it. In a world and a business sphere where so much depends on IT, transparency and temporary fixes are important, but nothing is as important as getting back online quickly. 

McDonald’s was soon up and running again – the entire process from failure to fix was about 12 hours in total. 

  1. Face reality 

Even though McDonald’s dealt with the failure transparently and quickly, it was not cost-free. Customers took to X (formerly known as Twitter) and ranted about their lack of McBreakfasts, as well as their annoyance with staff. This too is inevitable, but it could have been much worse, given the circumstances. 

If you need further proof that IT issues are inevitable, a huge UK supermarket chain, Tesco’s, experienced a contactless system crash in February – and, similarly, ASAD customers couldn’t log on to their online accounts for some time last year. It happens to the best of us. 

Though it is never ideal and not without cost, the correct approach can mitigate negative results and have you operating in no time. In short, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about your IT outage response, before it’s too late. 

If you don’t know where to start with this, just get in touch – we’re more than happy to help. 

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