Table for 4? McDonald's takes reservations in Sweden

STOCKHOLM - The giant of the fast- food business may be slowing down. McDonald's said Tuesday it will start taking reservations and providing table service at dinner time in a revolutionary experiment in Sweden.

The Scandinavian country is the first place the US hamburger king is testing this new way of serving customers.

McDonald's has 36,000 restaurants worldwide, but the testing of reserved dining is taking place in just 31 Swedish outlets for a week starting Friday.

Burger lovers can book a table online at a Swedish website that offers that service for many restaurants - in many price ranges - around the country. The McDonald's customer will have to order at least two items from the menu for one to four people.

The home of the Big Mac is testing reservations and table service in a country that has been a difficult market. McDonald's has faced fierce competition there from US rival Burger King and Swedish chain Max.

But this latest experiment seems to undermine the whole idea of fast food.

"It's innovative but at the same time it's going backwards in the world of the restaurant industry," where the concept of fast food was invented in the 1950s, said Nicolas Nouchi, analyst at CHD Expert.

"The boundaries are being erased. There is no longer a difference between table service restaurants and fast- food restaurants, and McDonald's has joined this movement," he added.

McDonald's in its statement did not specify the goals of the experiment in table dining, but it has launched a major publicity campaign to let Swedes know they make a reservation to dine on their Big Mac and fries.