Self-serve touchscreen kiosks are heading to two of the largest cities in Kansas, dealing yet another blow to labors unions fighting for higher wages for an increasingly obsolete pool of low-skilled fast food workers.
The new McDonald’s in Arkansas City, Kansas, opened its doors last month and introduced touchscreen ordering kiosks. According to Michael Lane of Lane Enterprises, McDonald’s in the city of Wichita will feature the same kiosks in the coming weeks.
“They’re going to roll out nationally in every restaurant where it makes sense,” he said of McDonald’s “Create Your Taste” touchscreen kiosks, which allow customers to customize their own meals and burgers.
The automated kiosks help mitigate long lines and wait times and also provide a remedy for local language barriers, providing ordering prompts in both English and Spanish.
Customers who use the kiosk to order will have their meal handed to them. The touch-screen kiosks are already a hit with customers, young and old.
“It’s kind of interesting,” Lane said. “At first I thought it would just be a thing for millennials and younger people, but pretty much everybody from all generations is coming up to them.”
McDonald’s is more than three years into its “Create Your Taste” touchscreen kiosks initiative, launched amid a labor union-backed push for minimum wage hikes – which are up for vote in several states and have been implemented by lawmakers in other major cities.
Panera Bread was among America’s first food service outlets to head down the path of lower labor costs and service efficiency that self-serving kiosks provide and unveiled its “Panera 2.0” initiative in April 2014. Before Panera Bread, Chili’s Grill & Bar began testing tablets that allow diners to order beverages and desserts and pay their entire bill, without having to flag down a server. An initial 180 tablets in a handful of Chili’s restaurants soon ballooned into 45,000 tablets across 823 Chili’s restaurants. The restaurant’s executives called it “the largest rollout of tabletop tablets in the U.S.”
In March 2015, Breitbart News reported that Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant chain CEO Andy Pudzer said he has plans to fully embrace automated machines.
“We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person,” Pudzer said after visiting a fully automated restaurant named Eatsa.
Pudzer said at the time that a completely employee-free restaurant is a business decision spurred on by disproportionate minimum wage hikes.
“With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” he said. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants as well.”
Last year, Business Insider‘s Hollis Johnson asked if 2016 was “the last stand of the fast-food worker?”
“Perhaps not,” Johnson notes. “But as automation and self-service kiosks develop, the way the fast-food industry manages and utilizes human labor will change drastically.”