Customers swarm new ‘McDonald’s of the Future’

Chris Habiger has been a McDonald’s franchisee for 11 years. For 10 of those years, he has wanted to renovate his high traffic location at 3504 N. Belt Highway.

But he didn’t just renovate. He demolished the old building and on Thursday, opened a 6,500-square-foot “McDonald’s of the Future” with a variety of new elements not found at most McDonald’s across the country.

Placing your fast food order at a kiosk. Customizable burgers and sandwiches with such items as guacamole and maple bacon to “make your burger special.” A dessert bar with waffle cones and waffle bowls with a variety of toppings. Table service. Armchairs and couches for hanging out. Interactive play area with a three-story play place and digital and projection games.

And all-you-can-eat french fries — at least for a couple of months.

When customers build a burger or chicken sandwich on the interactive kiosk and make it a meal, their fries are “endless,” a popular offering at the opening and one that garnered national press when it was announced in April.

Habiger and his wife, Karri Habiger, own seven McDonald’s in the St. Joseph area and Mound City, Mo. They hired 100 employees for the new restaurant but it wasn’t enough for opening day. At about 1:30 p.m. the restaurant stopped taking new orders for a time to try to keep up with the ones already placed. The dining rooms were packed, the drive-thru line stretched around the building and the children swarmed the expanded play area.

One customer dubbed it the nicest looking restaurant in St. Joseph.

“It’s nice, it’s what St. Jo needed, something new, something different to shake things up around here,” said Anthony Chandler, a customer on Thursday.

“I’m an entrepreneur and it’s about being creative and taking risks,” Chris Habiger said. “The demand has been like off the charts and we are doing the best we can to take care of our customers as quickly as possible. But it has been outstanding how many people are as excited about the McDonald’s of the Future as we are.”

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC