McDonald's starts table service in Germany

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp MCD.N is introducing table service in Germany as it reinvents itself as a "modern, progressive burger company" under new Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook.

A McDonald's sign is seen outside one of its restaurants in Joliet, Illinois, March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

The world's biggest fast-food chain has been testing myriad new ideas, including kiosk ordering, custom burgers and even a completely new restaurant brand in a bid to revive slumping sales and better compete with more nimble chains ranging from Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc CMG.N to Burger King QSR.TO.

“This is where McDonald’s is headed,” Easterbrook said at a McDonald’s in the Frankfurt Airport that serves more than 1 million customers a year.

Diners at that restaurant can now choose to be served at their table after placing an order at the front counter, via a digital kiosk or with a waiter carrying a tablet computer.

McDonald’s has tested table service in other markets, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Easterbrook, 47, made the announcement at the reopening of the restaurant, which is Germany’s biggest with more than 500 seats. Germany has been a challenging market for McDonald’s, which has struggled to find the right recipe for selling to the nation’s health- and cost-conscious diners.

McDonald’s executives have identified its priority turnaround markets as Germany, Japan, Australia and the United States, where it plans to expand a custom hamburger program called “Create Your Taste” and next month will start testing all-day breakfast in San Diego.

Easterbrook, a Briton who took the helm on March 1, is the second non-American to take the job. His challenge is to halt a slide in sales around the world.

Weakness in France and Germany, which has almost 1,500 restaurants, contributed to a 1.1 percent decline in comparable sales in Europe in the fourth quarter. Britain, France, Russia and Germany together accounted for 67 percent of European revenue in 2013.

McDonald’s said earlier this month it would remake itself after competition from Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and other chains bit into U.S. restaurant sales. Easterbrook has already said McDonald’s USA will switch to chicken raised with fewer antibiotics, putting it more in step with Chipotle and Chick-fil-A.

Easterbrook did not take media questions at the event.

In meetings with financial analysts last week, the new CEO called himself an “internal activist” and said he would look at everything that could create shareholder value, including cost cutting and a real estate investment trust but said he had not yet committed to a strategy, analysts said.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by David Holmes and Jonathan Oatis