Written by Sara Guo I 3 min read

Five years. That's how long Onova, in collaboration with Capgemini, has been partnering with McDonald's to host their annual 28-hour Hackathon. Back in 2018, we kickstarted the first-ever Burger Hack, a hackathon event that brought together McDonald’s employees from across the globe to innovate and create new solutions to solve the fast-food giant’s most pressing business problems.

Burger Hack has grown from only 250 people in Chicago in 2018 to amassing 2500+ people in 5 years. This event has become a vibrant hub where bright minds from diverse backgrounds converge, bringing their unique perspectives and talents to the table.

2018 –  The Beginning of Burger Hack

Marking the dawn of something extraordinary. For Burger Hack, participants chose specific challenge streams, such as restaurants, crew members, or community, and were tasked with creating solutions to overcome these challenges.

This wasn't your typical hackathon; here, participants didn't require technical expertise to make a recommendation. In fact, the majority were non-technical individuals, showcasing the diverse roles and possibilities within the realm of innovation. This emphasis on inclusivity and diverse skill sets was highlighted by Victor Li, CEO of Onova, on McDonald's Technical Blog

250 participants came in person to McDonald's Headquarters in Chicago to participate, and even on a smaller scale, there was no shortage of energy and ideas.

2019 – Growing Burger Hack

500 employees across 7 countries attended Burger Hack in 2019. Check out our recap video

2020 – McDonald's Canada Implements Advanced Mobile Ordering App

Implemented across 100+ McDonald's restaurants across Canada, the winning team of the hackathon created a new mobile app integration that enables customers to place their orders in advance and conveniently pick them up at the restaurant. This app utilized McDonald's APIs and machine learning algorithms to predict customer preferences and provide personalized menu suggestions. As a reward for their outstanding achievement, the team received a cash prize and the prestigious opportunity to present their solution to McDonald's executives.

Burger Hack 2020 saw a 100% virtual hackathon due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 – McDonald's Global CIO on the Importance of Burger Hack

“We host Burger Hack because we need it,” says Daniel Henry, executive vice president, Global CIO at McDonald’s after Burger Hack 2021. “We need to lighten up, have fun, build a sense of community, and foster our creativity. This annual event is our opportunity to get together and lean into the diversity of hacker teams made up of individuals from different disciplines and geographies.”

Burger Hack 2021 saw 880 participants, 43 countries, 125 mentors, 90 judges and 3 innovation themes; restaurants, community and people. 

2022 – Impacting the Company and the Employees

Burger Hack reached new heights of success. From 3 hours of sleep to winning the Global Women in Technology Award, participants like Maitree Shukla enhanced their technical skills, met new people and passionately pitched their idea to solve an existing business challenge. 

Fueled by a vibrant atmosphere of innovation and collaboration, Burger Hack united the industry's brightest minds in a shared mission. As highlighted in the McDonald's Technical Blog, this hackathon stood as a testament to the power of collective genius, harnessing the boundless potential of technology to reshape the fast-food landscape.

Maitree Shukla and her Grace Win, Maryclare Leonard, Will Moran, Ben Plzak, Claire Gertsmeier at Burger Hack 2022. Image courtesy of McDonald’s.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Onova as a partner in our annual hackathon: Burger Hack. Their team are true experts at corporate innovation and have helped to scale our hackathon to over 40 countries and thousands of global employees. Their ability to smoothly execute a highly complex global and hybrid innovation program is a truly impressive feat and a core reason to why we continue to work with them year over year. Their work overall has greatly contributed to our innovation culture and product pipeline at McDonald’s."

– Kristin Swayze, Global Technology Chief of Staff, VP Strategic Planning and Alignment at McDonald's

Final Words and Looking Ahead

Looking back at our journey from Burger Hack 2018 to 2023, we can see the tremendous impact that this event has had on the company and the employees. Burger Hack has become a platform for innovation and collaboration, bringing together professionals from different industries to create solutions that can transform the way we think about fast food. Ultimately, Burger Hack epitomizes McDonald’s commitment to growth, technology, and multifaceted solutions

As we look to the future, Onova is committed to continuing this journey of innovation and collaboration, working with partners like McDonald's to drive growth and create new solutions for their pain points – now with the help of Generative AI with our partners at Copy.ai.

The Onova and McDonald’s team at Burger Hack 2022

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Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
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