Can a Silicon Valley Tech Hub Make McDonald’s Relevant Again?

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Among the latest wave of Silicon Valley newcomers is one well-established and rather unlikely tenant. TechCrunch reports that McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) has launched a digital incubator on San Francisco’s Market Street – specifically in the Tenderloin neighborhood, where companies like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), Yammer, Spotify, and Square have set up shop.

Advertising Age reports that the tech hub, spearheaded by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) veteran Atif Rafiq, has hired engineers from eBay’s (NASDAQ:EBAY) PayPal, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), AOL (NYSE:AOL), Yahoo, and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox. Rafiq said to Ad Age that the hub is intended to help McDonald’s grow the digital projects that will connect it with a younger, more digitally savvy consumer. He added that the San Francisco office will aid McDonald’s in attracting more talent to accomplish those goals, though the majority of its employees so far have come from Rafiq’s personal network.

The move comes as McDonald’s and its many competitors, like Burger King (NYSE:BKW) and Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN), try to make up for what has been a slow effort to embrace new tech that can change the traditional fast food experience. McDonald’s has been testing mobile payments after Burger King and Wendy’s began allowing customers to pay via a smartphone, Time reported in March. Both companies’ apps generate a code that customers use to pay at the register.