San Clemente McDonald's shows off its makeover
For all you McNuggets and Big Mac fanatics who drive I-5, San Clemente's busiest fast-food restaurant at the Avenida Pico exit just got faster.
The McDonald's restaurant at 650 Avenida Pico has a new million-dollar look, along with a new dual drive-through designed to handle up to 150 cars an hour.
Ross Pollard, who owns McDonald's restaurants in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, said the Pico location has completed a makeover that began in October. It replaces the red-and-yellow look of the old 1970s building with a simpler, milder two-tone theme. Call it white and latte.
There's a new dining room. New kitchen. New restrooms. Free Wi-Fi. The playground in front is gone, replaced by landscaping and outdoor seating.
There even are two TV monitors tuned to the new McChannel – all fun stuff, no commercials. Southern California is a test market for the McChannel, and the remodel allowed San Clemente to get one of the first, Pollard said.
The change fast-food freaks may welcome most are the dual drive-through lanes designed to dramatically speed up service and prevent cars from backing up at times onto Pico.
"We can probably do up to 150 an hour, where before we were struggling to do around 90 an hour," Pollard said. "We had to remodel the kitchen to accommodate the increased business from the drive-through. We've also added a pretty sophisticated camera system that identifies the cars as they merge into the single lane. We won't get them confused based on going from two lanes to one lane."
To invite local residents to visit the new-look restaurant, Pollard has mailed discount coupons to 11,000 homes.
Pollard got a partnership grant from McDonald's corporate headquarters to help pay for the renovation. It's one of four remodeled McDonald's so far in south Orange County, he said, along with two in Mission Viejo and one off El Toro Road in Lake Forest. Sixty-five McDonald's in Southern California got grants in 2011 to upgrade, Pollard said, with 70 to 80 more coming this year and beyond.
He has applied to upgrade his San Juan Capistrano location which, like the San Clemente McDonald's, dates to 1973.
There are some less-obvious changes at the Pico location. Handicapped parking stalls were moved to a more convenient location, Pollard said, and the "M" sign by the curb was relocated. The old one made it hard for departing customers to see oncoming cars while trying to exit the parking lot.
As you enter now, parking to the right is diagonal instead of head-in. That's to prevent people from backing out and turning right, as some used to do, going against the arrows and the flow of traffic.
"We changed the look of the building to meet the city's wants and needs," Pollard said. "It is a total change from the traditional look. The building was 38 years old and it began to look it. When McDonald's offered to partner with me, I jumped at the opportunity. It needed to do what I did with it."
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