In January we noted ‘Smart Restaurant’ – the burger-flipping robot – and just last month we reported on China’s robotification of the fast-food business; but, as The Washington Post reports, the greatest enemy to the minimum-wage-demanding fast-food worker has arrived: you can now order your own quarter-pound bacon cheeseburger from a welcoming, non-judging machine. With McDonalds sales the worst in almost a decade, it appears their need to maintain profits has stoked a move towards dehumanization. One wonder how long before this action is also declared ‘unpatriotic’.

As WaPo reports,

If you’ve ever felt guilty ordering at McDonald’s, the fast-food mega-chain has just the fix: You can now order your own quarter-pound bacon cheeseburger from a welcoming, non-judging machine.

McDonald’s move towards dehumanization, launched as a pilot last winter and expanded across San Diego last week, is part of a larger trend of chain eateries turning tablets into your full-time restaurant buddy: equal parts menu, server and paycheck. Applebee’s, Panera Bread and even airport bars have installed tablets to allow diners to order food or booze without a wait.

Chili’s became the U.S. king of human-less ordering this summer when it installed more than 45,000 tabletop tablets nationwide.

While cost control is one factor, the tablet ordering had another silver-lining…

The move toward tablets is a bet from marketers on a quirk of buyer psychology: that customers will order more food if they can do it on a screen. While ordering from a person might lead you to rein in your appetite, a tablet sits silently and harmlessly, covered in colorful ads. Ordering off a tablet can also lead customers to try something new, which might make them happier and more likely to come back.

With tablet ordering, “you can serve more lunches per hour, and the customers, since so many use their smartphone for just about everything, see it as more convenient.”

Of course, in a world of de minimus capital costs (courtesy of an apparently job-creating-mandated Fed), why wouldn’t the McDonalds of the world adopt such a strategy. The outcome, as we explained before, is all too obvious…

What happens after that should be clear to everyone: more unemployment, lower wages for the remaining employees, worse worker morale, but even higher profits to holders of capital. And so on. Because in a world in which technology makes the unqualified worker utterely irrelevant, this is what is known as “progress.”

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So much for $15 minimum-wage demands… One wonders how long before ‘tablets’ are also declared ‘unpatriotic’.


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