Jeremy Julian

McDonald’s & Self-Serve Kiosks: Should Workers Be Worried?

July 25, 2018

Do you want fries with that?’ Don’t say “yes.” Just touch the screen. You may have noticed, but cashiers at fast-food restaurants are becoming increasingly uncommon.


McDonald’s plans to add touch-screen ordering kiosks to thousands of stores nationwide to supplement in-store employees, transforming America’s largest fast-food chain. McDonald’s started rolling out ordering kiosks at its US locations in 2015, and the chain hasn’t looked back since: by 2020, most of its 14,000 locations will have kiosks installed.


Why is the fast-food giant doing this?


Customer preference and experience.


The kiosk initiative is part of McDonald’s quest to adapt to changing consumer preferences. That effort extends to experimenting with the food as well, such as the meatless McVegan burgers now in some McDonald’s in Europe.


But surprisingly, customers often buy more when ordering on a screen than when standing in front a worker at the counter because they tend to linger longer, the company found. “What we are finding is when people dwell more, they tend to select more,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook stated. “So there is a little bit of an average check boost that comes with it.”


McDonald’s will add kiosks to 1,000 stores every quarter — roughly 10 stores per day — over the next two years, Easterbrook said. And the U.S. is late to the game: Kiosks are already fully installed at stores in English-speaking markets such as the United Kingdom and Canada. France was the first country to introduce the self-serve machines.


CEO Easterbrook and other representatives of McDonald’s say kiosks aren’t a substitute for human workers, but rather a new way to bring the benefits of technology to the fast-food industry.


The kiosk will also work in your hand, too: The ability to order from your own smartphone will come to more stores and delivery options are under consideration as well.


So the million dollar question is: will this replace workers and should they be worried?




Some news outlets have reported that the kiosk-initiative started in response to the $15-minimum wage.


That is not true.


Yes, the kiosks reduce labor costs and the need for fully staffed cashiers, but it doesn’t eliminate it. The kiosks supplement cashiers by operating in tandem with them and allowing customers to choose either ordering method. McDonald’s has repeatedly said that adding kiosks won’t result in mass layoffs, but will instead move some cashiers to other parts of the restaurant where it’s adding new jobs such as more food preparation and providing curbside and tableside service. Besides, the touch-screen technology is meant to speed up the ordering process and give people more control over customizing their food, while reducing opportunities for human error. Therefore, increasing customer satisfaction and experience, which is essential to any service business.


Rest assured, the nature of some McDonald’s cashiers’ work may change, but it likely won’t result in job termination.


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