Maybe you've seen the machines that dispense drinks at your favorite 5 Guys, or the iPad that takes your order at Chili's and Applebee's, or the machine that takes your order at Panera Bread.
At McDonald's, they've combined a computerized kiosk with a brand new menu, and it appears to be a big hit around the country:
In Houston, a customer raved about being able to avoid human interaction:
The automated kiosks have also shown up in New York City:
...and San Francisco:
So, what's the reason for these changes?
Some people suspect it's no coincidence these advances at Mickey D's have corresponded with the protests by SEIU and other unions, along with fast food workers, demanding $15/hour pay.
The Wall Street Journal has speculated about the connection. Others have noticed, as well:
In addition to kiosks reducing the need for as many employees, The Harvard Business Review says that customers actually spend more money when they order via kiosk:
At one store, 10 or so years ago, they found that the average check size was a dollar higher — a 30% increase at the time. And they found that 20% of customers who didn’t initially order a drink would buy one when it was offered. Kiosks, of course, never forget to upsell.
ComputerWorld magazine reports that robots and gadgets were going to replace workers, despite demands for higher pay:
The elimination of jobs because of automation will happen anyway. ...(S)oftware and robots will replace one third of all workers by 2025, and that includes many high-skilled jobs, too.
All told, McDonald's business was down last year. The restaurant hasn't changed the way it's taken orders since the 1950s, according to Darren Tristano of Technomic research group. As one Florida McDonald's franchise owner told WTSP TV:
We need to do something different to change the trajectory of our business.
With the computers being employed at more and more franchises, it looks like this guy could be parked on the bench for good: