If you’ve ventured into your local McDonald’s lately, you may have noticed a new employee. Except this employee doesn’t wear a name tag, uniform, or even receive a paycheque. Automated kiosks are popping up in Ontario letting customers place their own order on a touch screen.
What could McDonald’s be planning with these electronic waiters?
Many speculate that the rising minimum wage may be the reason. If McDonald’s can replace a living worker making $18,000 a year with a machine for a one-time installation cost, then they’re poised to save a lot of money.
According to the restaurant chain, the world’s 4th largest employer, that is not their plan. A McDonalds CEO told the Huffington Post that the kiosks are meant to give the customers, “… a modern opportunity to order at their own pace” and to, “… try their own hand at customizing their order.”
To me this sounds like a big PR spin-job.
Customers don’t want to “play cashier,” they want to order the food and receive it as quickly as possible, so they can sit down and eat. It’s hard to look at these changes as anything but a cynical cost cutting measure.
I frequent the McD’s near my house for coffee and I’ve seen people using these machines recently. Most customers seem confused and take three times as long on the kiosk as it would take the cashier to ring in their order, like they’re paid to do.
There is even a staff member walking around taking customers out of the regular line to try the machines; seemingly against their will.
While some may like the novelty of the system, general reaction in my location had been less than positive.
Customers have been heard complaining about the machines being overly complicated and slow and saying they’re a poor replacement for human interaction.
As if that wasn’t enough, these machines bring a new problem for the fast food chain: excessive wait times.
Since they now have a line for a cashier plus a line for the machines, they’ve introduced a ticketing system for orders. After paying, you will receive a number on your receipt and that’s the order in which you will receive your food.
This has created long wait times for customers as someone who just ordered a coffee and muffin will have to wait behind people who order three Big Mac combos, even though the cashier could get that order in 10 seconds. During lunch rush it’s not uncommon to see the line for receiving food three times longer than the line to order.
I don’t like the idea of ordering my food from a machine. It feels too dystopian. I feel like it’s going to ask me what flavour of Soylent Green I want with my nutrient enriched vita-paste.
I want to talk to a human being, not a program, and I think most people feel the same.
Part of the appeal of fast food is the convenience. And, from a corporate perspective, self-service kiosks may sound more convenient, but their practical application is the exact opposite.
Overly complicated automated systems are inferior to the tried and true method of telling a cashier your order, then waiting to get it delivered. No tickets, no touch screens, no extra lines, no nonsense.
When ordering a meal at a restaurant becomes more of a hassle than making it yourself, you might as well stay home and make your burger; it’ll even taste better.