You may be seeing a change at your local McDonald’s in the near future, whether you’re ready for it or not. The fast-food giant is planning to roll out a new “format” for its stores in select locations. The major change is that there will no tables or seating inside the restaurant. Known as “McDonald’s to Go,” all orders are for takeout only. Oh, and there’s one more big change… you won’t have to interact with those pesky and fallible human beings anymore. All ordering is done using a kiosk. One of the reporters at Insider visited the first of these outlets, recently opened in London, and reported what they saw.
The fast food chain is reportedly opening a fleet of new restaurants that aim to feed its customers faster by exclusively serving takeout.
The new fleet has been dubbed McDonald’s first new restaurant format since it introduced the drive-thru in the 1970s. Inside the restaurant, orders are placed on touchscreens, and there are no tables, chairs, or decor. The menu is also stripped down to the chain’s staple items like Big Macs, McNuggets, and fries.
I ventured to the first McDonald’s of its kind, located on Fleet Street in the heart of London, to see what it was like.
The company claims that the purpose of this new format is to allow people to get their food and be back on their way more quickly and efficiently. But the reviewer reported that the total time to get your food and leave really wasn’t any quicker than a normal drive-through experience or picking up take-out orders at the usual counters.
Also, the pictures and the description provided make the store sound rather depressing. The floors and some of the walls are gray. The customer area is small and uninviting. It all sounds like a deliberately planned environment designed to encourage people to pick up their meal and get out as quickly as possible. And with no place to sit down, it will probably work.
The one feature that definitely works are the kiosks. The menu has been stripped down to the basic, most popular items like cheeseburgers, Big Macs, fries and chicken nuggets. There are pictures as well as text, making ordering easy for the less tech-savvy. You can only pay with plastic… no cash option is provided. The kiosk prints your receipt with your order number and you go to a counter and wait for your number to come up.
So why are they really doing this? Because in many places, automation technology is cheaper than human beings. This is particularly true in the United States where minimum wage hikes are becoming the law of the land all over. Why pay someone with a high school diploma a “living wage” to do unskilled labor when a kiosk will do it 24/7 while getting no benefits, never getting sick and never asking for a raise? We’ve known this was coming for a long time, but the Fight for 15 movement simply accelerated it. As soon as labor costs shot past the amortized cost of installing automated facilities like this, people were going to lose their jobs.
For now, there are still humans in the back, cooking the food and loading the orders into bags. But as soon as the price comes down on Flippy the hamburger robot, they’ll probably be on the way out as well.