Let me say up front that I have nothing against McDonald’s or the people who work there. In fact, like a lot of people, working at McDonald’s was one of my first summer jobs. My memory of it is that it was sometimes fun but also pretty tiring. You were on your feet for the entire shift and every once in a while you’d get difficult customers who’d had a bad day somewhere else and decided to spread their particular brand of joy with you at lunch. So, yes, I actually feel a bit sorry for some of the people who are going to lose their jobs and be replaced by self-order kiosks. From Buzzfeed:
McDonald’s will roll out self-order kiosks to 1,000 stores every quarter for the next two years, according to CEO Steve Easterbrook.
The kiosks were already in roughly 3,500 US McDonald’s restaurants as of March, or about one-fourth of its domestic stores. They will be in about half of US restaurants by the end of 2018 and in all stores by 2020. McDonald’s locations in Australia, Canada, and the UK are even further along in kiosk usage…
McDonald’s and other restaurant companies are wrangling with rising labor costs in the US as minimum wage hikes take effect in markets around the country. In the first quarter of the year, McDonald’s payroll and employee benefits were 30.2% of sales, up from 27.8% during the same period in 2017.
The Fight for $15 has been proclaimed a success everywhere it brought about an increase in the minimum wage but, as almost anyone could have predicted, the end result is going to be more automation and, probably, fewer jobs. I’m saying “probably” fewer jobs because the official word from McDonald’s and other chains is that they aren’t necessarily cutting staff just reassigning them to other jobs in the restaurant. What jobs exactly? That’s never been entirely clear. No doubt there will always be one person on hand to take orders but it could come down to just one person there to help people use the kiosks.
As the industry leader, this move is likely to get any competitors who were still on the fence moving in the same direction. Already, Wendy’s, Shake Shack, and Subway have suggested they are making similar moves. So the remaining fast food employees will be doing a bit better thanks to the $15 minimum wage but there will probably be fewer of them. If only someone could have seen this coming.
And it’s not just ordering kiosks that are likely to replace workers in the near future. One LA burger joint introduced “Flippy” the burger-cooking robot earlier this year. Flippy actually died, overwhelmed by orders on his first day, but he was redesigned and reintroduced at the beginning of May and has been working smoothly ever since. You just know something like this is coming to the other chains eventually.