The Human-Free Mickey D

By Tim Knight

I was in Los Angeles for the second weekend in a row, and I did something I do, on average, about one time every five years: walk into a McDonald’s. When I did, I saw something unusual:


Hmmm, what’s this? A gigantic iPad? Let’s take a less oblique look:


Yep. I don’t have to talk to a human. All I do is create my own order. It’s all very familiar to anyone who has ever bought anything online. You load a cart with stuff, pay for it by swiping your card, and wait for your number to appear on the big screen.


I mean, let’s face it, the role of a cashier is just to take the words that come out of your mouth and punch those instructions into the keyboard (and, more often than not, actually get the order right). There’s no value added. Indeed, using this giant kiosk thing, I enjoyed it a lot more than I would staring up at a menu and mouthing my order to the cashier, because it was really apparent to me what all the options and choices were.

For instance, I got the chicken strips, and it showed me the dozen different sauces available. I didn’t have to ask some poor cashier what the sauces were and have her recite every goddamned one. I could just glance at the screen. Brilliant!

To McDonald’s, of course, this is a money saver. Even as cheaply as they pay them, a cashier (here in California at least) probably runs say, about $30,000 per year or more. I bet these kiosks cost a whole hell of a lot less than that.

Of course, the title of this post isn’t quite right, because there are still humans assembling the food. With other technologies like Flippy the Robot coming along, I suspect those employees will eventually be shown the door as well.

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