McDonald’s Self-Serve Kiosks A Response To Higher Minimum Wage?

McDonald’s is well on the way to offering self-serve kiosks at a majority of their stores instead of paying employees to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” The question is, are McDonald’s self-service kiosks just a result of the ongoing march of automated technology, or the result of minimum wage employees and their city and state governments demanding more money?

The answer, of course, is a little of both.

McDonald’s employees are now entitled to a $15 minimum wage in both Seattle and Los Angeles. As excited as employees at places like McDonald’s are, there is a large contingent of both small business owners, and large businesses like McDonald’s, that are having a difficult time swallowing the — in some cases — double payroll they’ll have to fork out for employees.

So what’s the answer? Should McDonald’s (a company whose profits haven’t exactly been on the upswing as of late) reduce staff numbers to make up for the minimum wage hike and sacrifice customer service, or take a more futuristic approach? McDonald’s seems to be taking the more 21st century approach, and they aren’t the only ones. For half a year, Taco Bell has initiated an order-ahead app for customers that the mexican fast food restaurant says has actually increased their sales.

By the numbers, according to the Harvard Business Review, customers using technological devices like Taco Bell’s apps and McDonald’s experimental kiosks actually spend more money than they do when ordering from a human being.

What’s the science behind that? Eleven years ago, researchers discovered that customers would spend upwards of a dollar or more using kiosks at McDonald’s versus ordering from a human being. At that time, that was a 30 percent increase in a McDonald’s order. Additionally, researchers discovered that 20 percent more customers that didn’t initially order a drink would order one when the kiosk offered it — something that the McDonald’s kiosk would do on every single drink-less order.

A 2011 study found that self-service kiosks at restaurants like McDonald’s resulted in order times that were seven seconds faster than when dealing with human beings. That may not seem like much, but the same research study said that shorter order times of that length could result in an increase in a company’s market share by 1 to 3 percent. In terms of the billions of dollars made by a company like McDonald’s, that 1 to 3 percent could mean millions of dollars.

As automation becomes cheaper, faster, and more efficient, perhaps its onslaught in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s is inevitable. Of course, higher minimum wage requirements being imposed on companies has only accelerated the switch from human beings to automation.

Does it trouble you that automation is taking over minimum wage jobs? As a customer, would you rather deal with an actual human being or an automated kiosk when you visit McDonald’s?

[Photo by Kevin Moloney / Getty Images]

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