Welcome to part three of my US Fast-Food Trilogy: After In-N-Out and Chipotle, it’s time to discuss the king of burgers… (the real king, not the self-appointed one)... McDonald’s. While Chipotle is announcing a significant hiring spree, McDonald’s is unveiling its first “fully automated” store (and I’ll explain the scare quotes soon).
McDonald’s will automate away all their cogs and eventually become a glorified vending machine. I’m ok with that because it’s more like competing with a grocery store than a small mom and pop business that offers warmth and human connection. The piece that is more concerning is the closing of community spaces. Growing up I went to an inner city school and can also vouch for seeing most of the locals hanging out at fast food joints
Great article, Professor! It definitely provides food for thought. Here are a few observations I had while reading the article and doing some research.
With regards to McDonald's becoming faceless, it appears that the trend towards automation in the fast food industry is already underway. McDonald's Digital sales, including in-store kiosks, mobile apps, and delivery platforms, are on the rise and already account for approximately 25% of total sales in the US (and over 50% in Europe) as of mid-2022. Given this trend, step 2 for big portion of the orders is already eliminated so removing step 5 with the new automated store seems like a logical progression in the industry.
As for the absence of a smile, consumer behavior and preferences have changed significantly due to the pandemic. With the rise of remote work and online ordering, consumers have become accustomed to interacting with digital platforms and are aware that there are humans behind these platforms. They are therefore comfortable with tipping digitally without face-to-face interaction.
Finally, with regards to transparency, it is likely that as Generation Z becomes a significant part of the workforce in the coming years, both employees and customers will be more comfortable with transactions without human interaction. This is because social media and digitization have been integral parts of their upbringing. Additionally, consumers may already be comfortable with not seeing how their meals are prepared, as this has been the norm for some time now.
Hi Gad - this is Shash from “Erik’s weekly reviews”. This was an interesting read. I was compelled to write - I attest to McDs being community pillars. My work takes me to lonely spots in the US where I’ve seen communities revolve around their McDs.