McDonald’s is moving its innovation center to corporate headquarters

The burger giant is creating “Speedee Labs,” which will consolidate innovation work being done in Romeoville, Ill., and its corporate offices in downtown Chicago.
McDonald's innovation center
McDonald's is moving its innovation center functions to corporate headquarters in Chicago. / Photo by Jonathan Maze

McDonald’s is consolidating its innovation teams at its corporate headquarters, the company said on Wednesday.

The Chicago-based burger giant will create “Speedee Labs,” using the name of McDonald’s pre-Ronald McDonald mascot as well as the name of the service system it introduced in 1948 to speed service.

The company will move its existing innovation center in Romeoville, Ill., to corporate headquarters in Chicago, about 31 miles away. Speedee Labs will combine that team with existing employees in Chicago. McDonald’s plans to exit its lease in Romeoville at the end of next year.

There are about 120 people who work in the Romeoville office. They will be given the opportunity to move to Speedee Labs, which will occupy existing space at corporate headquarters as well as 15,000 square feet in additional leased space in the same building.

The move is designed to bring groups together to create a “new innovative environment” to develop new technologies and processes.

“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,” Manu Steijaert, McDonald’s chief customer officer, said in a statement.

The creation of Speedee Labs comes more than a year after McDonald’s appointed Steijaert its first chief customer officer and created a team to work under him that would manage its digital and in-restaurant diner interactions.

It highlights the shift in consumer demand and the growing importance of mobile ordering, delivery and other technologies in the fast-food space.

McDonald’s opened its innovation center in 1995. It enabled live restaurant testing and more recently remote and simulation-based training to help the system refine operations and improve the experience for customers and employees.

The company, suppliers and franchisees worked at the center to develop customer-facing processes and technologies. Efforts there led to streamlined kitchen processes, updated cooking processes, delivery and mobile order and pay.

The change also solidifies McDonald’s presence in Chicago. The company relocated its headquarters to the city’s West Loop area in 2018. The company hosted more than 11,000 visitors to the building last year and estimates that it has had a $2 billion impact on the Cook County economy.

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