Workplace was originally conceived and built by Meta as an enterprise version of its flagship Facebook app, and today it announces a new client that speaks of that ambition of mass adoption. The company has signed a deal with McDonald’s, the fast food giant, that its employees can use Workplace on their own phones to communicate with each other, access training and other company resources, and more.
The deal is a global agreement, but the business is run on a franchise model, so outside of stricter mandates around menu items and a restaurant’s appearance, when it comes to how franchises manage staff and work with third-party suppliers, this will be on a more localized basis. That means while McDonald’s employs nearly 2 million people worldwide (just behind Walmart, which also uses Workplace), how many are using the app and how that will translate to active, paying users remains to be seen.
So far, the company said McDonald’s employees in 11 markets – Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovakia, Poland and “several company-owned restaurants in the US” – already use it, but refused to talk about how much in all restaurants. Christine Trodella, director of Reality Labs at Meta (which also oversees sales for Workplace), noted some specific usage metrics: Australia already has 100,000 users (a few seconds of usage per month counts as a MAU); McDonald’s employees who downloaded Workplace in Spain are already sending 140,000 messages per month; and in Portugal, 73% of those who have downloaded Workplace use it weekly. These are generally encouraging signs for an opt-in app among those who may have never offered such a product before.
Meta also has plans this year, adding Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.
The company has publicly said it has 7 million users, but it hasn’t updated that number in over a year (a source told us in January it was probably closer to about 10 million at the time).
That Facebook is now announcing McDonald’s as a customer is interesting for a number of reasons.
McDonalds also happens to be a customer of at least one other service, Flip, which competes with Workplace to provide a communications app for frontline workers.
In addition, we had actually heard more than six months ago that the two companies were working on tests and pilots together, but a source told us at the time that while Workplace was eager to broadcast that news, McDonald’s is putting the brakes on.
Why? According to our sources, it was partly because McDonald’s — working hard to avoid its own negative PR conflicts about health, cultural imperialism, bad for small business, and so on — wanted to steer clear of “reputation issues” and the bad news cycle Facebook (or Meta as it is now renamed) was faced with too great or too bad an influence.
“That doesn’t happen to other SaaS companies,” said a source of the delay and the reasons for it.
“I see it less as a delay and more about what we want to talk about,” Trodella said when I asked her about this delay in an interview, characterizing the delay as Meta’s choice. “We wanted to share the traction we’re getting and the engagement and use cases publicly. We wanted to wait.”
Anyway, as it was described to me, the delay before announcing the news was one of the details in what appeared to be a difficult (or more charitable) transition period for Workplace.
As we wrote earlier this year, that also included a number of talent departures, not least the two people running it: Karandeep Anand (who was appointed Chief Product Officer at Brex) and Julien Codorniou (who left to partner be at VC Felix in London). Capital city); an apparent rejection of an offer from outside investors to drive out the division at a unicorn valuation; the entire division is instead being rearranged into a larger organizational structure involving the VR team and Portal teams (and bringing forward a spokesperson with a position referring to “Reality Labs” speaks of that as well); and finally, taking a different stance as a product, working more on integrating functionality from third-party apps like Microsoft’s Teams rather than building natively; and Meta itself also wants to sell Workplace in a broader set of services rather than a stand-alone product.
So the fact that this is now being announced is noteworthy, and perhaps a sign that Workplace is getting back to work.