In Texas, hamburger chain McDonald’s is running trial with robots, conveyors and geolocation to allow customers to order and takeaway entirely contactlessly for the first time.
Burgers off the conveyor belt
McDonald’s is testing a new concept in Fort Worth: the restaurant is a lot smaller than usual, but that is the least startling aspect. Although there are a few seats, the restaurant is aimed at customers who pick up their fast food on the go – and especially want to do so as quickly and contactlessly as possible.
Customers can place their order in three ways, all without having to interact with an actual employee. The first option is ordering inside via the kiosks, which for the first time accept cash in addition to card payments. When orders are ready, they literally roll off the conveyor belt to a takeaway shelf. Outside, specific parking spaces are reserved for meal couriers and for those who come to pick up their orders quickly.
Those who prefer to stay in the car can choose between the classic drive-in for ordering on the spot or the new Order Ahead Lane for those who have ordered in advance via the mobile app. Customers are handed their order there – again automatically via conveyor belt – as soon as they arrive. Thanks to location technology, staff are notified when customers are approaching so they can immediately start preparing orders when they are near the restaurant.
90 % is takeaway
According to the fastfood chain, this is an “exciting” way to test how it can adapt to changing customers’ needs and how to serve them faster and easier than ever. The new concept also allows meal couriers to save time, which is more important than it may sound: since the pandemic, McDonald’s derives 90 % of its sales from takeaway anyway.
Still, far from everyone is enthusiastic: activists feel that automation is bad for employment and that McDonald’s would be better off paying its physical employees more. However, the fast-food chain stresses that there is still a fully human team in the kitchen and that it is purely a testing and learning concept. No further rollout is reportedly planned (yet).