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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes 720

dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.
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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

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  • This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:20AM (#48220537)

    "automation backlash" aka increased productivity is fantastic for the economy .

    • Re:This is silly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:22AM (#48220569)
      It may be good for the economy. It may not be so good for the people who can no longer support themselves because they just lost their minimum wage job to a robot. It may not be good for the people who then get mugged by said hungry person either.

      Don't worry; our job as Anonymous Coward will be replaced by a 'bot soon too!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:28AM (#48220669)

        Don't worry; our job as Anonymous Coward will be replaced by a 'bot soon too!

        Tell me more about it.

      • Re:This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:39AM (#48220867)

        Automation is good for the economy.
        Automation has created 100ks of jobs. For example, FedEx and UPS could not handle the volumes of packages that each handles per day without automation. FedEx employees about 100K persons due entirely to the technology of automation. The same is true of airlines. The automation of pilot responsibilities and tasks has made flying much safer and easier (at least before the TSA). Personal Computers (PCs) have placed automation on the desktop. How many accountants used M$ Excel or some other software. Designers, engineers, et al, are much more productive because of automation. Even the vehicles that are driven on the streets are manufactured with robots. Even trades professions benefit from automation. Electric (first corded and then cordless) drills, saws, scribers, etc., etc. have made persons more productive, more efficient, and more profit.
        Automation increases productivity and is good for the economy.
        Automation increases jobs. M$ employees around 100k persons who would have jobs wthout the automation of the PC. FedEx and UPS employee well over 100k person because of automation. The list goes on.
        Automation does require the displaced employee to get another job. This may require retraining, returning to school to upgrade or acquire a skill set that is marketable. The may require a change of career. Most displaced employees will find other jobs. The vast majority of displaced employees won't become strong-arm bandits or burglars, or thieves, or grifters or etc.

        • Re:This is silly (Score:4, Interesting)

          by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:37AM (#48221603)
          While I agree with you that automation is good for the economy as a whole (any increase in productivity is an increase in the amount of wealth that can be generated) you're overestimating the skill sets of some people.

          There are people who aren't qualified for much more than a simple job and lack the drive or perhaps even the capacity to learn something better, or perhaps the amount of effort that must be expended to train them does not generate a net increase in wealth.

          As automation gets better, the types of jobs that can be automated grows and the people who are the least able to acquire the types of skills that cannot yet be automated find themselves in a position where there isn't a lot that they can do or where they need to build a completely new skill set as their previous one is no longer useful.

          Perhaps by the time this becomes a large enough problem, automation will have made our productivity and wealth generation sufficient that we can just provide everyone the resources they need to live off of while they acquire a new skill set, but it always comes back to the problem of making sure people aren't free loading. Perhaps it just comes down to doing it anyway because the alternative is spending even more resources to police and arrest those people who do turn to crime.
          • Re:This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

            by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @12:01PM (#48221931)
            "[M]aking sure people aren't free loading" is NOT the problem. The problem is making sure that when "automation will have made our productivity and wealth generation sufficient that we can just provide everyone the resources they need" those resources are actually GIVEN to those who need them and not concentrated in the hands of, quite frankly, freeloading billionaires. The idea that any one person can be so productive that they deserve 1000x more reward than anyone else is absurd.
            • Re:This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

              by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 24, 2014 @12:44PM (#48222437) Journal

              Exactly. The hyper-rich "job creators" are actually the most entitled freeloaders in our society by far, but nobody ever questions it. They're too good to pay their taxes like everyone else, and they'll starve our societies to the brink of collapse in the process of hoarding ridiculous, unusable amounts of wealth for themselves. They've done it before and they're doing it again. Their "work" is a little bit of correspondence here and there from their megayachts or the golf course. But because they're in charge of all the decisions of a company in a very abstract way, we think they somehow generated all the value that results from those decisions. It's absurd.

              But the people working their asses off for a sub-livable wage while receiving welfare (effectively a massive subsidy program for all businesses employing minimum wage workers - the gains of which are again hoarded by the hyper-rich), they're freeloaders :-\

      • Re: This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kenh ( 9056 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:54AM (#48221043) Homepage Journal

        So we should retain inefficient practices and increase costs to the consumer because otherwise we'll have a glut of unemployed low-skill workers that may commit crimes?

        Seriously?

        A person rendered unemployable by ordering kiosks is a victim of an education system that ill-prepared them to contribute to society, and the solution isn't to protect their low/no-skill jobs.

        Did people argue against the automobile because buggy whip workers would turn to a life of crime when they lose their jobs?

        • Re: This is silly (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:20AM (#48221399)

          A person rendered unemployable by ordering kiosks is a victim of an education system that ill-prepared them to contribute to society, and the solution isn't to protect their low/no-skill jobs.

          Not everyone is educable. Not everyone has value to society that's sufficient for them to support themselves.

          • Re: This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:58AM (#48221899) Homepage
            A lot of people don't want to see this. You can see the assumption everywhere here: those displaced workers will just find another job! Well no, at some point they won't. Automation is well on its way to eliminate certain types of jobs entirely and not all of those people will be able to find new jobs elsewhere. Even if they were to educate themselves, they'd come into a job pool which is already too small for the number of applicants, so at best they'd cause wages to go down and conditions to worsen (since corporations can pick and choose). That's assuming they can, which, especially in the US, usually involves thousands and thousands of dollars on something with no guarantee of a return on investment.

            We're headed straight into a wall where we'll have people without any skills we need and who are unable, financially or otherwise, to gain desirable skills, as well as higher unemployment across the board. We can't wish them away and they deserve decency as much as the next person.
      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:15AM (#48221333)

        It may be good for the economy. It may not be so good for the people who can no longer support themselves because they just lost their minimum wage job to a robot. It may not be good for the people who then get mugged by said hungry person either.

        If you are attacked by said unemployed maximized minimum wage person, perhaps you should just beat them with your buggy whip until they back off.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:20AM (#48220545) Homepage Journal

    I mean, maybe I'm just harking back to a past that exists only in my mind, but I seem to recall a time when the journal actually covered business in its pages, rather than regurgitating neoclassical economics talking points all-day every day, attempting to construe every single negative thing as a result of failing to religiously adhere to its principles.

    Am I misremembering, and imagining the shift from kinda disagreeably right-leaning to fanatical?

    • by dosius ( 230542 ) <bridget@buric.co> on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:22AM (#48220579) Journal

      They turned into a Murdoch rag is what happened.

    • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:28AM (#48220657)
      You are not misremembering, at one point WSJ published a lot of insightful business and economic commentary, and kept politics contained in the opinion pages. Now political narrative dominates all aspects and as a result business and economic aspect suffer.

      I stopped reading it for this reason - profit has no ideology, moment you view data through a lens of politics is the moment you stop noticing opportunities.
    • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:29AM (#48220679) Journal

      I think this is still in the Journal's ballpark. What was not economical for McD's to do before (automate ordering) possibly becomes so when you're getting forced to pay someone $15/hr to stand at a counter and push buttons.

      This is what the minimum wage hike advocates never seem to understand - when you raise the labor expense, many more options become economical to the employer.

      (This post is not an opinion on whether the minimum wage should be raised or not, so don't flame me. It is simply an opinion on the possible consequences.)

      • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:33AM (#48220751) Homepage Journal

        Point of fact: McDonalds as a corporation doesn't sign those peoples' paychecks, at least if their business model hasn't changed since 2000ish. They do franchising, and make money on the fact that franchises have to purchase supplies from the company. This allows them to dodge risk on opening in poor locations, or personnel expenses.

        Now, I'm not so thick-headed as to imagine that they wouldn't come up with something like this to help franchises with wage costs, but I'm also aware that this tech is coming to all sorts of places other than Seattle where the minimum wage actually went up.

        • Now, I'm not so thick-headed as to imagine that they wouldn't come up with something like this to help franchises with wage costs, but I'm also aware that this tech is coming to all sorts of places other than Seattle where the minimum wage actually went up.

          The fact is that it's going to happen regardless of where minimum wages are set, or even if there are legally-mandated minimum wages (as opposed to the market-determined real minimum wages). Anyone who thinks most unskilled jobs aren't going away is crazy. The question is at what rate this change will occur, and it seems quite clear that high minimum wages will make more automation economical sooner, pushing the rate of change.

          We're edging towards a major economic restructuring driven by widespread automation. We've had automation-driven restructurings in the past, and dealt with them, and this too will be handled. But when you're talking about widespread elimination of old jobs and creation of new jobs, speed kills. Retraining, and even just adjusting to the new reality, take time, and in the meantime millions upon millions of displaced workers are a huge drain on the economy, not to mention miserable.

          I think it's pretty clear that high minimum wages are a forcing function for this transition, and I don't think it's something we really want to force. Ideally, it would be better to slow it down, at least in terms of the human cost, though the most obvious mechanisms for slowing it (labor subsidies) may also dangerously distort the economy.

        • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:41AM (#48221653)

          Point of fact: McDonalds as a corporation doesn't sign those peoples' paychecks, at least if their business model hasn't changed since 2000ish. They do franchising, and make money on the fact that franchises have to purchase supplies from the company. This allows them to dodge risk on opening in poor locations, or personnel expenses.

          Actually, this isn't how McDonalds corporate works.

          The way McDonalds works is it picks your location for you, buys it, builds a McDonalds there, and guarantees you your franchise buy-in back in one year. The franchise buy-in is $1M, which you get back in one year, and then you make that each year thereafter.

          They *do* sell you trade dress items - fry boxes with the 'M' on them, and they sell you food supplies - but their primary profit actually comes from their real estate holdings, the fact that they are your landlord, and franchise fees.

          Once they do sell you a franchise, they dictate your trade dress, which means corporate pays for remodeling the individual franchise stores (after all, McDonalds themselves owns the property), and when they tell you remodel, expect the crews to show up and just do it, you are at best granted minor choices on things like arrangement of the bathrooms, and the manager's office, and so on. Otherwise, they dictate. This is a typically good thing, since they know how many people will go through in a given amount of time, max, because they have a PhD in mathematics who understands queuing theory work it out.

          In addition, you can't buy a franchise unless you have been a store manager, and you can't be a store manager unless you've been an assistant manager, and you can't be an assistant manager unless you've been a shift lead, and you can't be a shift lead unless you've been an ordinary employee. In other words, every step in responsibility requires that you be able to do all the jobs at the previous step in responsibility. This is why when they have walkouts, they typically don't close down over them.

          So it's not like this will change the need for employees, from the line on up, or they'll have no new franchise owners, unless they totally rework their entire model. Which they won't do, since their primary profit comes from real estate, them being your landlord, and franchise fees.

          This really has nothing to do with the Minimum Wage issue; that's just because the author of the opinion section piece that the OP referenced, since they could care less.

          They did however throw $200M in venture funding behind the company providing the automation software and equipment a few years back. Time to recoup their investment there.

      • Devil's Advocate (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:55AM (#48221861)

        Assume that the minimum wage is raised to $15/hr and McDonald's decides not to automate. Many of the current minimum wage workers will be replaced with an equal or smaller number of workers who are more productive. The guys holding the picket signs and protesting will most likely not benefit from the raise. They will have to compete with a larger pool of skilled applicants who will work harder and smarter to get the job done. The people laid off or replaced will find that the minimum wage raise they protested so hard for cost them their job and strains their ability to keep up with what unemployment and welfare pays as cost increase to the balance the new wages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Yeah, you're right. Why would a company which employs millions of low-skilled workers want to get rid of them just because the government demands they pay them more and has set interest rates near zero so borrowing for capital investment is nearly interest-free?

      Totally makes no sense to anyone but EVIL RIGHT-WINGERS.

      • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:39AM (#48220853) Homepage Journal

        Except the minimum wage hasn't actually increased anywhere but Seattle, Washington(and even there it's still being phased in), and more-over, one of the big principles that undercuts this argument is: "once you can automate away a job, is there any wage at which you wouldn't?"

        • Except the minimum wage hasn't actually increased anywhere but Seattle, Washington(and even there it's still being phased in), and more-over, one of the big principles that undercuts this argument is: "once you can automate away a job, is there any wage at which you wouldn't?"

          No, there isn't any wage at which you wouldn't - and it's been happening right under our noses for thirty-forty odd years now. Most people don't notice it because "automation takes away jobs" is virtually always assumed to mean "low e

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:21AM (#48220549)
    This goes further to demonstrate that automation will take over many menial jobs in my lifetime. This leaves us with a problem - what to do with all the unwanted and unskilled labor? Skilled worker's salaries have not kept up with productivity gains, as such there is no chance they could support service-based economy to offer unskilled workers a living wage.

    Sadly, the likely outcome is drop in the quality of life for everyone involved.
    • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:26AM (#48220615) Homepage
      The sane thing to do would be to institute a minimum basic income.
      • by Truekaiser ( 724672 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:37AM (#48220815)

        It would also save tax payer money.
        Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and hour would remove $7.6 billion from being spent by social services to subsidize companies who pay workers $7.25 or less.

      • The sane thing to do would be to institute a minimum basic income.

        What, just give people money for doing nothing? Who do you think they are, bankers?

        I like the idea of a basic income. It would be an interesting experiment both economically and socially. I would love to see how it would be received in a country that loves its myth of the self-made man, pulled up by his own bootstraps. People in America work for what they have, so if they have more they must have worked harder or smarter for it. How would that square up with people getting money just for existing? It

        • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:55AM (#48221053) Homepage

          I think they're human beings. I think that money is power, and that political suffrage (the vote) is no longer enough. We must also have universal economic suffrage as well. Every individual needs to have an assurance that their annual income won't fall below the poverty line, because poor people aren't human beings in the USA.

          If they don't want to work, but live on ten grand a year while sharing an apartment with a few other people who want to live on basic, that's their problem. Ideally it would help parents, especially single parents. It would help students. It would help artists. It would help open source hackers and other people who do useful work that isn't adequately valued by our system.

          And it would give us an excuse to get rid of our existing welfare system. We can tell people who aren't working, "You got your basic income. If you need more money, get a fuckin' job."

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo&world3,net> on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:30AM (#48220691) Homepage Journal

      Or maybe in this instance it's just a better way to serve food.

      They have had these machines in Japan for decades. It's basically a ticket vending machine, you choose what you want and pay for it, then hand the tickets to the staff. They prepare and serve your food, without handling dirty money that has been through FSM knows how many hands and pockets. The line for the machine is usually very short too, because you get the ticket immediately and can sit down while waiting for food.

    • IMO automation like this is what will allow industries to pay a 'living wage", so increased the quality of life for some. Services industry will have less employees, but they will be doing the harder more demanding jobs, and they will be payed more. Quality of life will go up for those who keep their jobs at a higher pay rate, and down for those who were only marginally employable before, who now become absolutely unemployable due to their lack of skills, motivation, work-ethic, etc...

      You can't have yo

      • You overlook two factors:
        1. The higher skilled workers will also see their pay fall, as the excess labor pool in general grows. You end up with that most dreaded of situations: Skilled graduates on minimum wage.
        2. If there aren't enough jobs to go around, it's not just those lacking motivation that end up unemployed. Employers get to be really picky, and make whatever demands they want. Are you willing to be on call 24/7 in case of a sudden surge in demand? Accept a zero-hours contract? Stay quiet when you

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:21AM (#48221407)
      The goal of any significantly advanced civilization should be 100% unemployment and automation.
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:22AM (#48220565)

    At a drive through, being able to fire up an app, hit "send" and have the actual order I want would be nice. I tend not to hit fast foot places, but it would be nice to get something that is somewhat close to what I ordered at the pickup window.

    Some dine-in restaurants are experimenting with this as well. Chili's has their Ziosk devices, and those are nice because paying for a tab is just a couple taps and a card swipe, rather than having to flag down the waitstaff, especially if one is in a hurry.

    Of course, this isn't a "one size fits all", but it can be useful.

  • by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun&gmail,com> on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:22AM (#48220571) Journal
    Dammit, I want my 80s cyberpunk sit at the table, order from computer (bonus points for miniature holographic waiter who appears in middle of table), and food is delivered out of hidden conveyor system experience!
  • by bangular ( 736791 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:25AM (#48220613)
    The faster we automate the economy the faster we address the root of the problem. One day, almost all jobs will be automated. How will we deal with the makers and takers debate? Delaying the inevitable economic/political revolution doesn't help anyone.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:26AM (#48220617) Journal

    Good staff knows how to upsell. That extra appetizer, dessert, beer, etc. Will it be as effective as static ads on UIs?

    But basically any jobs replaced will be the most robot jobs in the first place. Just like long ago the most repetitious jobs on assembly lines were replaced by robots and now how the most repetitious jobs in IT are becoming automated. Book keeping is already automated but I can see a time when tax accounting coupled with rules engines and data mining could remove many corporate tax attorney and accounting jobs. Taxes are just rules after all. You might need a few people coverting the tax code to standard set of rules for an optimization engine but the days of large staff pouring over tax laws may be numbered.

    But it is just like the WSJ to blame one insignificant factor. There are other factors at play and their coverage is not fair, balanced, well reasoned, or complete.

    • Upselling will be done with a confusiing UI and endless "Would you also like a drink?" with moving "Yes/No" input. Just like they do with gas stations and car wash offers.
  • My Views (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:26AM (#48220619)

    I want every person who is willing to work full-time to be able to earn at least poverty plus a dollar. I don't care about the skill level of the employee. In this way I ama liberal.

    I recognize that you cannot put artificial price controls in place and expect the market to just absorb it. In this way I am a conservative.

    My best solution is that we have a tax on the wealthiest to subsidize those that don't have skills that don't allow them to hit pverty level. Some subsidy that will bring lower earners up, but not discourage them from trying to make more.

    My rationally is that people are much more productive than they were 100, 50 or even 20 years ago. Part of the promise of automation is that everyone would benefit... shorter hours... higher pay. This never materialized. So, I am fine with a level of socialism for those who are willing to work but cannot make ends meet.

    -- MyLongNickName

  • by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:26AM (#48220621) Homepage Journal

    Maybe the handwaviest hand wave in the history of Slashdot. The author of the introductory text claims McDonald's didn't make the change in response to increasing minimum wage levels, but what is their evidence for this? Citing, for example, banks and ATMs is hardly convincing, because bank tellers are not minimum wage employees.

  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:27AM (#48220641) Homepage

    Currently, the way it's implemented in european country, McD doesn't use it to reduce workforce (you're still required to walk up to a clerk to retrieve your order).
    McD uses it to accelerate it service and increase the "number served": by the time you finish typing your order and have confirmed, the order is already broadcast to employee's screen. By the time you finish paying and walk to the queue, your order is already ready.
    This cuts drastically the waiting time, and european McD's use to cram more customer served per minutes.

    In the long run such stategies won't neceessarily reduce the workforce that much, but on the other hand, they will be used to propel "fast food" to a whole new definition of "fast".
    On the other hand, that will probably be quite alienating for the workforce: no more breaks between customers, no more small talk while ordering. Work experience is going to be Charlie Chaplin's "modern times"-style: read the screen, pack the bag, hand over the bag, as fast as possible and repeat so the next customer doesn't need to wait.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:30AM (#48220703)

    There have been tablet-based kiosks at the local Chili's (my wife...don't ask) for about a year now that allow you to order and pay your bill. Like anything else in a restaurant that caters to young families, the kiosks are disgusting, and our first act upon sitting down is to usually been pick up the kiosk and shove it under the table, behind a plant, up on a windowsill, etc.

    If we sit down at a restaurant, we're there to tell someone else what we want, and let them push the right buttons, coordinate the food and the drinks, etc. Otherwise, we're basically dining at vending machines.

  • Nothing really new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:31AM (#48220707) Homepage

    Plenty of cheaper restaurants here in Japan - chain izakayas especially - have used terminals for ordering for years already. And while they certainly do it in part to reduce staff, the fact is that many customers like it. You don't have to flag down a waiter to place an order, and you can always see exactly what you've ordered, what dishes you've yet to receive and your current tab.

    Also, the basic truth is that if your job can be automated, no wage level will compete with it in the long run. If you accept wage cuts to avoid being replaced by automation, you've only bought yourself a few years, and at a lower salary than you're worth at that.

  • Cashiers (Score:5, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:32AM (#48220729)

    In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s

    When I was a kid in the 1970s, I remember the order-takers at McDonalds would take the order down on a paper pad, then in seconds add it all up with a pencil and present you with the total.

    Wonder if the cashiers would even be able to do that today...

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      Well... Let's just have a little test! [youtube.com]
  • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:34AM (#48220781) Homepage

    There are times when I use a drive-thru. What I absolutely hate is the delay from the time I order until the time my food is ready to deliver to me. The reason: it takes time to cook. I understand that. So the ability to order "over my phone" means that there is an overlap between travel time and food prep time. So, I get to the drive-up line, confirm my order, pay, and then get the food, all in seconds. Instead of waiting in the car line, engine idling all that time. (No, I don't have an electric car...yet.)

    This order-by-phone process has become standing operating procedure for me when I'm getting a pizza, because the 20-minute cook time matches my overall travel time to the pizza place. No time wasted. (No, my usual haunt doesn't have drive-up -- I'm expecting that trend to start sometime, too. If you can have drive-up funeral viewing...)

    How about this? You enter the drive-up and place your order, only to discover the two people in front of you have large orders...and all you want is coffee, soft drink, or other beverage. You sit and wait...and wait...and wait. Car idling, of course

    It used to be that the fast-food restaurants would prepare food in advance, and possibly have to throw out some of that "spec" food. During rush times, they can prepare some things in advance; during slower times, they don't. I think the "new" way is better in some respects, but it plays hob with wait time.

  • Automated restaurant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:41AM (#48220899) Homepage

    I have said for many years that, with an appropriate restaurant-savvy partner, I'd like to open an automated restaurant. In-table PC's to order things, with card-readers.

    I don't want to wait for the waiter to come over until I can order a drink. I might have driven a long way and be gasping of thirst before I care about a menu. Press, press, done before I've even taken my coat off.

    I want to see the whole menu. The ingredients. A picture. The price. The associated special offers. Does it have pepper on it? A fully interactive menu would be great, and not be covered in the gravy-stains of the last patron, or have bits scribbled out on it. Plus, when something is no longer available, bam, you can't order it. I could even press the "I have an allergy button" and see if anything is incompatible with that without relying on the waiter to run back and forth to the kitchen.

    I might want to tip one member of staff, but not know their name (or they happen to have finished their shift by then). Press "tip", select staff member photo (or select "All staff"), type in a reason, swipe card, done. And no arguments over who I intended it for.

    I might well want to pay for my own stuff and not have to wait for the end of the meal and argue with friends. Or order a slice of cake to take home as a last minute thought after I've paid. Or split the bill via various common calculations. Or even tag five items as what John has to pay and let him pay that off the bill because he has to leave early. Press, press, swipe. Done.

    I might wall desire a human to talk to, if something cocks up. Big green help button lights up the table, which summons a waiter, much like airplane call buttons. The waiter still has to be around to shuttle things from the kitchen, and this way seems easier - and politer - than having to flag him down as he passes with a table full of plates. Press, done.

    I might well decide to change the order mid-flow. So long as the kitchen hasn't started on it yet, why not? Until the order's locked in, I can alter it. And I can even "lock" certain portions if one person at the table wants the starter now while the others only want mains and want to argue over it. Press, press, done.

    I might want to pay first, or pay once I've eaten everything. I can choose.

    I might want to buy some wifi access, or get a code for the toilet (I disagree with limiting toilets to paying customers only, except on an honesty agreement, but some places do just that and your receipt contains your code for the toilet), or donate to the charity associated with the restaurant, or buy the chef's recipe book. Press, press, swipe, done.

    I might want to move tables mid-order, or take my drinks outside. Press, press, done and the waiters and kitchen automatically know where I am.

    The back-end? The waiters still wait. The bar tabs are still on the EPOS. The kitchen still gets a ticket about what table wants what. And those that want manual service press one button.

    We've already automated every part of the experience but the customer's.

  • by AdamInParadise ( 257888 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:46AM (#48220947) Homepage

    I live in France and these things are in every McDonalds already. I did not realize that they were not common elsewhere.

    Ordering at a self-service kiosk is convenient because few people uses them, so usually there's no queue. This may be related to the fact that they only take cards. Ordering from the kiosk also prevent misunderstandings.

    I've also used their mobile app and their website to order (for pick-up, they don't do delivery) but the benefits are minimal compared to ordering from the kiosk. Paying with a card on a mobile phone is annoying, especially when 3D-Secure kicks in and I have to copy the confirmation number from the SMS to the app. I'm sure that for McDonalds the main benefit of the mobile and online offerings is that they lock in the customer and prevents her/him from changing their mind on the way to the restaurant (but not really as you pay only if you collect the meal).

  • by paulpach ( 798828 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:53AM (#48221023)

    Peter Schiff wrote a very eloquent piece explaining why minimim wage hurts the economy, job growth, and especially the young, unskilled and minorities. Here is part of it:

    Low-skilled workers must compete for employers’ dollars with both skilled workers and capital. For example, if a skilled worker can do a job for $14 per hour that two unskilled workers can do for $6.50 per hour each, then it makes economic sense for the employer to go with the unskilled labor. Increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour and the unskilled workers are priced out of their jobs. This dynamic is precisely why labor unions are such big supporters of minimum wage laws. Even though none of their members earn the minimum wage, the law helps protect their members from having to compete with lower-skilled workers.

    Employers also have the choice of whether to employ people or machines. For example, an employer can hire a receptionist or invest in an automated answering system. The next time you are screaming obscenities into the phone as you try to have a conversation with a computer, you know what to blame for your frustration.

    There are numerous other examples of employers substituting capital for labor simply because the minimum wage has made low-skilled workers uncompetitive. For example, handcarts have replaced skycaps at airports. The main reason fast-food restaurants use paper plates and plastic utensils is to avoid having to hire dishwashers.

    As a result, many low-skilled jobs that used to be the first rung on the employment ladder have been priced out of the market. Can you remember the last time an usher showed you to your seat in a dark movie theater? When was the last time someone other than the cashier not only bagged your groceries, but also loaded them into your car? By the way, it won’t be long before the cashiers themselves are priced out of the market, replaced by automated scanners, leaving you to bag your purchases with no help whatsoever.

    The disappearance of these jobs has broader economic and societal consequences. First jobs are a means to improve skills so that low skilled workers can offer greater productivity to current or future employers. As their skills grow, so does their ability to earn higher wages. However, remove the bottom rung from the employment ladder and many never have a chance to climb it.

    So the next time you are pumping your own gas in the rain, do not just think about the teenager who could have been pumping it for you, think about the auto mechanic he could have become – had the minimum wage not denied him a job. Many auto mechanics used to learn their trade while working as pump jockeys. Between fill-ups, checking tire pressure, and washing windows, they would spend a lot of time helping – and learning from – the mechanics.

    You can read the entire thing here:
    http://www.europac.net/comment... [europac.net]

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @10:56AM (#48221073)

    There was a spirited discussion yesterday about what's happened to the economy since domestic manufacturing got wiped out. Now that the only things we make in the US at any scale are aircraft, military equipment and cars, all the people who used to have nice stable manufacturing jobs were moved to corporate and service jobs. Then routine corporate work was automated, offshored and outsourced. No problem, you say, they can always work service jobs. Well, now service jobs are being automated.

    No one is addressing this problem -- there are millions of people smack in the mean of the IQ scale with no hope of becoming decent knowledge workers. The political climate paints everyone who can't find work as a lazy "welfare queen." How does the calculus change when you have a huge portion, and eventually a majority, of people with no way to support themselves and no hope of getting one of the "new economy" jobs? People like to say that people will just adapt, or the market will take care of it, but I think this is one case where the market would really fail. People in the techie set like to learn new things, and assume everyone else does. People in the factory worker or service set go to their job, do exactly what is required of them, and go home. I realize I sound mean, but it's the truth. There is no feasible way to retrain a factory worker who has been doing the same job the same way for 20 years and put him in a job that will produce the same income.

    Automation is great, and it's cool what we can do now...I just think it will eventually trigger a lot of very bad unintended consequences.

  • Yea....right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:25AM (#48221477)
    Quote from headline -- " It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants..."

    Yea, right. Just another place where we will be standing for 10 minutes behind some clueless ID10T trying to figure out how to use the kiosk, just like at the Walmarts with the self service checkouts.

    If you know how to use the kiosks, they are fast and easy. But you always get someone who is clueless and cannot comprehend simple instructions on the screen holding you up in line.
  • by satsuke ( 263225 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @11:28AM (#48221499)

    It might be noted that this move to automation occured _without_ an increase in the minimum wage.

    i.e. they are doing it because it can contribute to their bottom line and "enhance" customer satisfaction.

      -- time to order in this kind of business is a large part of the expense, hence why they flocked to credit card systems to lose ~3% of their revenue, because it essentially eliminates cash handling time and balancing the books at the end of the shift (for that portion of sales).

    (just out of high school, I worked at a Burger King in the drive through (1992). You had to make change in my head,. I could do it without error. Most others could not)).

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday October 24, 2014 @01:01PM (#48222617) Journal
    The west is about to head into massive automation. If Europe and America grant total amnesty to all illegals, it will come to bite these nations in the butt with large amounts of un-educated and un-employable individuals.
    What is really needed is for an amnesty path for a small group of the illegals (basically, those that were raised here). The rest need to go back to their homes.

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