Your local McDonald's is about to undergo a radical transformation, and whether you will like it or hate it doesn't really matter. The future is here and it means you'll soon be ordering your Quarter Pounder and fries from a machine instead of a human being.
Soon, you'll place an order by standing in front of a self-serve kiosk, paying and either picking your food up from the counter or waiting for an employee to bring your food to your table. While McDonald's claims that customers like using the self-serve kiosks because it gives them more time to customize their orders, the reality is that automation will be replacing much of the human workforce in coming years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that 80,000 fast food jobs will disappear by 2024.
The self-serve kiosks have been tested in hundreds of U.S. McDonald's over the last few years and are already widely in place in Europe and other parts of the world. According to The Street, half of U.S. McDonald's will have the self-serve kiosks by the end of 2018, at a cost of about $2.4 billion, which also includes opening 1,000 new locations.
I visited a McDonald's using the kiosks in Prague, Czech Republic, a few weeks ago, and here's what it looked like. (Note the counter worker wearing a regular T-shirt and using his mobile phone while working--not a good omen for human workers.)
Ordering from a machine will take some getting used to if you're someone who bristles when having to talk to a computer when you call a company, or wonder why anybody would trust a self-driving car. But if you enjoy tapping on a device to consume everything from news to shopping to social media, using a self-serve kiosk will probably seem faster and more intuitive, even if doing so means the demise of jobs for minimum wage workers.