WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
One day all McDonalds could be fully automated …
One day your local McDonalds could be a so called Dark Kitchen run entirely by robots, like Flippy the burger flipping robot, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take your drive through orders. All of which is ironic because as activists call on McDonalds to pay their employees higher wages what they might end seeing is all those employees getting automated instead … But not quite yet. This week though the first mostly non-human-run McDonald’s opened for business just outside Fort Worth, Texas.
At just one location so far, customers can drive to the golden arches and expect to be served a Big Mac or a Happy Meal by a food and beverage conveyor instead of an actual, real-life human being.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s told reporters that the test concept “is not fully automated”, emphasizing that the restaurant does employ a team comparable to that of a traditional store.
The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25/hour. https://t.co/GVqCtW2VpO
— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) December 22, 2022
Smaller than a typical McDonald’s, the location is geared towards customers on the go rather than those who plan to dine inside. It limits interactions between team members and customers and uses “enhanced technology that allows the restaurant team to begin preparing customers’ orders when they’re near the restaurant”.
The goal of the test is to improve order speed and accuracy.
Customers can pick up their meals in a drive-through “order ahead lane” or order at the touchscreen kiosk inside the store. And, McDonald’s called the concept “more seamless than ever before.”
Unsurprisingly though the stunt drew the ire of activists, who criticised the fast food corporation for entertaining the idea of a costly automatic restaurant rather than paying its workers a living wage.
In Texas, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and hasn’t increased in nearly a decade. It ranks above only Georgia and Wyoming’s minimum wage of $5.15, which is $2.10 less than the US federal minimum wage. Five other states have not adopted a set minimum wage: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Across the country, most McDonald’s workers earn less than $15 an hour – far below a living wage in nearly every state. McDonald’s is one of 300 publicly held companies with the lowest median worker wages, according to a 2021 Institute for Policy Studies report.
The test restaurant plays into fears that jobs will one day be taken over by robots and automation, replacing the need for human employees, and then ironically the very activists fighting for higher pay for McDonalds staff ,might find themselves at a loose end when they have no employees left to fight for …