McDonald's and Starbucks. They're two of the three biggest restaurant chains in America, and they feel radically different on the surface.
But with each passing day, they seem a bit more similar.
Take the sweeping decisions they've both made, within mere days of each other, about the future of their restaurants.
Clearly, they're making the same bet on what the customers of the future will want.
But the way they're doing it will either be a brilliant example, or a cautionary tale. And that makes it worth watching, no matter what kind of business you run.
You fly, I'll buy
The customer of the future, according to both Starbucks and McDonald's, will be a customer who might never set foot in a Starbucks or a McDonald's.
That's why both brands have announced big additions to their food delivery programs.
Starbucks had been testing delivery through Uber Eats in 20 U.S. cities. But it's now announced that it will expand delivery throughout the entire country by 2020.
Meanwhile, McDonald's -- which has a big head start in delivery, and now calls it a $3 billion annual business -- announced it's expanding its program.
Up until now, it's partnered exclusively with Uber Eats, but it's now going to partner with DoorDash as well. Doing so should increase the total percentage of the country that can get McDonald's delivered from about 64 percent to 80 percent.
You want fries with that?
A lot has been written about the big challenge with food delivery at McDonald's and Starbucks: they both have popular menu items that don't fare well during delivery.
At McDonald's, we're talking about French fries, which happen to be the number-1 ordered item for delivery, and which can seem a lot less appetizing after they've been sitting in a bag for an hour.
The chain's chief strategy officer, Lucy Brady, said last year that McDonald's tries to combat this by making sure that the freshest fries go out for delivery, and that they keep delivery times to under 30 minutes.
Starbucks has a similar issue, because hot coffee doesn't stay perpetually hot. The company seemed to acknowledge this in its delivery announcement:
"Through the agreement, the companies will collaborate on innovation and technology integration. Starbucks and Uber Eats will continue to focus on delivery packaging, in-store operations, and a quick order-to-door delivery window."
Who does the driving?
Here's the trickiest thing about all of this, and the one most worth watching if you're running an entirely unrelated business.
It's that since they're outsourcing delivery to places like DoorDash and UberEats, Starbucks and McDonald's are giving up control over big parts of their customer experience.
In most cases it's literally the same gig economy workers doing the driving for all of the ride share and delivery companies. They're also giving up access to data, and helping to turn these delivery companies into billion dollar entities.
The advantage is a quick rollout, of course. But there's another way they could do this.
McDonald's and Starbucks could simply hire their own drivers directly. They don't outsource food prep or other big parts of their businesses. What makes delivery different?
There's a model for hiring your own drivers, too: Panera, which made a big deal about the fact that it employs the drivers at its 2,000 locations directly last year.
Give it a year or so, and it will be interesting to see which model works out better. One way or another, though, all these giant chains are happy to do whatever they think it will take to keep the customer of the future coming through the doors.
Or in the case, of delivery -- staying away.