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Newest McDonald's Brings Modern Look to Fast Food, There are Even Video Games

by on June 23, 2014 6:55 AM

It's what you might call a Big Mc-Deal for people who love to eat under the golden arches.

Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a brand spanking new McDonald's restaurant that's about to open at Hills Plaza along South Atherton Street.

The new fast food eatery replaces the old McDonalds at the same location, which was torn down in March.

Brett Vance, the restaurant's general manager, exudes an infectious exuberance as he shows off the new place. During a recent visit Vance was hard to miss -- sporting short-cropped blond hair and a bright red shirt with "McDonald's" emblazoned on it.

Vance has been with McDonald's for ten years. He started out at age 16 and worked his way up from crew member to general manager. To say Vance is excited about his new workplace is an understatement. "We have completely redone everything," he says, beaming.

Watch the entire construction process in less than 60 seconds:

McDonald's tries to replace its restaurants approximately every 25 years or so. The old restaurant would have been 38-years-old in August so it had more than outlived it's projected life span. 

Depending on the day, anywhere from 1,000 to 1,600 customers were coming through the doors. And that overwhelmed the older place.

Vance says some of the equipment was worn out and there were a lot of problems over the past year. "We replaced one grill, we replaced another fryer, several registers, we actually had to replace our hot water heater," he says.

According to Vance the new restaurant is much better equipped to handle a growing number of customers. "The biggest difference, really -- speed is our biggest one, honestly," he says. "We were pretty quick and speedy beforehand, but with the new dual lane drive-thru (yes, there are now two drive-thru lanes) we have a new computer and revenue register system to speed up [order taking] as well."

To get to this point was quite an undertaking. McDonald's Area Construction Manager Gregg Protch says, "There were probably at least a dozen contractors on that project." That includes plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, framers, landscapers and asphalt to name a few.

Roughly 300 construction workers were all working at one time or another. They got the job done in a hurry. Construction began on April 7. Just 81 days later the new restaurant will open its doors for the first time.

The first customers will see some dramatic changes.

"We modernized our dining area," says Protch. "It's a modernized look. Before it looked old and outdated.

"We have 76 seats in the new Mcdonald's and a split function ordering point at our front counter. We have three registers where you order your food and a separate area to pick up the food. We came out with our new digital menu boards as well. It's kind of a TV screen and has all of our menu items on it."

One thing that's gone is the children's play area -- a victim of liability concerns.

However some tables are now equipped with a video game system. "They're all touch screen computers," says Vance. "They have, I think, upwards of 50 games on them. ... They have solitaire and a few other things for the older generation. ... I think they said they have games on here that even three-year-olds can even understand. I haven't played them yet!"

The Hills Plaza location had been losing business to three other McDonald's restaurants in State College. Two of the other restaurants had been renovated. The Nittany Mall McDonald's was demolished and rebuilt from scratch. They're expecting a lot more business at Hills Plaza once the restaurant there reopens. And that means a lot more jobs.

"We've hired close to 20-25 people on top of what we already had," says Vance. "We left here with close to 30 and now were up to 52-53 and that's just crew positions and not even management positions." The goal is to eventually hire another 20 employees.

Vance has a message for his old customers. "I would definitely think they should stop in and see the massive changes we've made," he says. "We're not going to look like any of the other stores. We've got our own brand.

"I'm more than excited. I know the rest of the team is. We're hoping that turns into some positive results for us. I'm pretty positive it will," he says laughing.

A soft opening is set for 6 a.m. on Thursday, June 26. The Grand Opening will take place early on Friday, June 27. Ronald McDonald will be on hand. Diners will be eligible for giveaways and even massages.

What will customers say when they see the new look McDonald's? Vance thinks a moment and delivers a one word prediction, "Wow!"

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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