McDonald's is setting up shop in the tech community epicenter of Silicon Valley.
The company's new outpost, on San Francisco's Market Street, is the brainchild of McDonald's Chief Digital Officer Atif Rafiq, who came to the company in October. Mr. Rafiq said that San Francisco office will enable it to better attract and recruit digital talent; buttress business development; and provide the company "a way for us to be more plugged into the flow of ideas."
"The office is one of several things we're doing to grow our focus on digital and be more consumer-centric," said Mr. Rafiq. He was quick to note that he does not qualify the San Francisco office as an innovation lab because "it's very connected to the operations of our business" and isn't just for experimenting.
The office currently has only a couple employees, though there is room for 15 or 20 people in the near-term, who he termed "the typical suspects in Silicon Valley. People who have joined mainly have come through my network." Though the company declined to give names of recent hires, Mr. Rafiq said that they have come from PayPal, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft Xbox, among other internet companies.
The company has been posting job openings in San Francisco, seeking digital marketers, digital media execs and designers, among other tech-savvy employees.
"McDonald's has bold plans to evolve the customer experience for the digital era, and the Global Digital team is at the center of this aggressive change," read one recent job listing for a user-experience designer. "Our team is leading the worldwide effort to develop and orchestrate digital initiatives across every facet of our interactions with customers. This includes new brand engagement, e-commerce, service delivery, and digital content capabilities."
McDonald's focus on digital comes as it and its competitors are looking for ways to connect to consumers, particularly in the mobile space -- a medium the restaurant industry has been slow to embrace here in the U.S.
The company is currently testing mobile payments in the U.S., including mobile ordering allowing customers able to pick up food in stores, curbside or at the drive-thru. Mr. Rafiq declined to detail when a national rollout for the mobile test would occur. The Golden Arches has also been digitizing its menu boards in recent years. Overseas, McDonald's and other chains have been working with mobile for some time.
The chain's digital ambitions are presumably well beyond mobile. It just launched a massive global mobile campaign for the World Cup featuring an augmented-reality app, a campaign that Mr. Rafiq oversaw.