McDonald’s cut the ribbon on its new global headquarters in Chicago on Monday, celebrating its move downtown to the city’s rapidly growing West Loop neighborhood after 47 years in suburban Oak Brook. Only there really wasn’t a ribbon cutting. Instead, CEO Steve Easterbrook, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a number of company and civic leaders activated a touchscreen that sent up a digital display of fireworks. Then the doors swung open beneath the jumbo Hamburger University sign, and invited guests were led inside for a tour of the space. Here’s what we saw.
1. Work neighborhoods encourage interaction
The urban office space is arranged with an open floor plan of “work neighborhoods” with multiple touchpoints. Each department provides several types of work environments, including communal tables, huddle rooms, individual stations and booth arrangements. Team members aren’t assigned desks; they can choose a space that best suits their needs and work style on a particular day or time of day.
2. Communal spaces in a range of styles
Team members have plenty of options for larger meetings as well as alone time. There’s a Quiet Room modeled like a library, several outdoor patio areas with both collaborative and individual seating and a Work Cafe designed with elements of McDonald’s PlayPlaces. The cafe incorporates stadium seating for town meetings, a tech bar much like Apple’s Genius Bar and a barista station, as well as many tables and counters.
3. Connecting employees worldwide
Hamburger University has seven campuses around the world, but McDonald’s Chicago headquarters will be the flagship location for training and education of current employees and future leaders. It includes a 700-person conference center equipped with state-of-the-art technology to allow for worldwide connectivity.
4. Walls of nostalgia
Throughout the building, there are nods to McDonald’s history. One wall sports display cases filled with Happy Meal toys while another showcases a timeline of the chain’s ads. In the lobby is a tribute wall of McDonald’s notables, including the inventors of the Egg McMuffin and Big Mac. One icon noticeably missing from the decor was Ronald McDonald.
5. Restaurant of the future
The ground floor houses a franchised McDonald’s restaurant that’s open to the public. It offers ordering kiosks, a greeter to direct guests, table service and a rotating menu of McDonald’s specialties from around the globe. Currently, there’s a McFlurry Prestigio from Brazil, Cheese and Bacon Loaded Fries from Australia and a Mozza Salad from France, but these will be rotating off the menu around July 4 and replaced by other international favorites, said owner/operator Nick Karavites. By the end of 2019, 10,000 McDonald’s will be remodeled in this prototype, said CEO Easterbrook in his opening remarks, although only Chicago’s global headquarters will boast a global menu.
6. Mentoring and funding businesses
The move downtown represents a commitment to Chicago, said Easterbrook, and to support that commitment, McDonald’s started a fund to rally assistance for city business owners. So far, the investment has allowed 32 companies to expand or relocate to more profitable or more underdeveloped parts of the city, including several restaurateurs. McDonald’s is also reaching out to business owners in its immediate West Loop neighborhood, offering mentoring programs from its leaders.