‘Robots’ now taking orders at McDonald’s


By Chuck Woodbury
Look what I found in a McDonald’s in central California. It’s an automated cashier – just insert your credit card, punch a few buttons to pick your food and drink and then claim your goods when your number is called.

The machines are not what you would traditionally describe as robots, but they are replacing humans, so when it comes right down to it, that’s what they are.

I am not a regular McDonald’s customer, so perhaps these machines have been around awhile. Please let me know. This particular restaurant had four machines. The place was packed when I stopped by for a burger and shake. Two humans took customer orders at the counter. Other customers used the machines. I didn’t give much thought to the machines at first. Then, talking later to a few Californians, I was told that they were in response to California upping its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The machines, once in place, do not demand a wage and they always show up on time.

Personally, I like the idea of a $15-an-hour wage. It’s good that people can afford a better life than what they could at $9 an hour. But, business being business, it does not surprise me that McDonald’s would embrace these “robots” to keep its costs down, which in this case means employing fewer humans. I expect other fast food places will follow, if they haven’t already.

I wonder how many entry level jobs will now be lost to high school kids and others needing part-time income? I suppose it will soon amount to tens of thousands and many more in the years ahead.

What do you think? Please, no rants.

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Interestingly enough, McDonalds has been using this self order board in Europe for some time. I had my first experience in Germany last spring. Actually easy once you understand how to use it. Kinda like round-abouts – (damn things) I saw the order boards at a Mcd’s in Chicago’s McCormick Place expo center last fall also!

If you don’t like them, well you probably would rather go back to stopping and paying a money taker on the toll roads rather than the on hi-way tolling with an I-pass too! – Not me – bring em on!

Eric Eltinge

30% of the nation’s homeless and 300,000 of the 700,000 DACAs live in my home state of CA. There are few good manufacturing jobs. The bottom 80% serves the top 20%. Now these low paid retail jobs are being taken by robots. Our kids only hope is to have a strong STEM background.


Of course there will be people who do not want to work a minimum wage and strive to do better themselves or build some self-respect, when they can lay around all day and still receive a welfare check and food vouchers and EBT cards.

Edward Gonsalves

Even with the higher wages many places can’t find enough people to work, that’s the main reason why these robots are needed.

Tom Gutzke

I don’t believe every job in America is designed to be a ‘living wage’ position. The many part-time positions at fast food restaurants are meant to teach work ethic, listening to instructions, and doing the best you can. This is what made the work ethic.

Lynn Vander Horck

Panera Bread has been using the robot option but many still use the human

Paul Alton

They are the norm at McDonalds in Canada. I prefer them they are quicker to order and no ESL or deafness issues. The machine accepts tap and pay and reads the code for coupons off the McDonalds smart phone app. Then you can lean back against the padded bolster and watch where your order is in the queue. I definitely prefer them.


When we retired Home to the States two years ago after having lived and worked in the U.K.. the self-order kiosks had been in place over there in McDonalds for a couple of years. I suspect the trend may have more to do with the difficulty of finding dependable employees than a rise in the hourly wage.

They work great in Britain, as most Brits I know would rather interface with a machine than have to speak to a person. 🙂

Ken Bram

I had a business a few years ago that employed about 45 people of varying abilities – from warehouse workers to a CFO. I questioned him what the ramifications of increasing the salary of those below $15 per hour. He estimated that when adding in all the extras, it would cost me about $250,000 per year. I could not raise my prices. How soon until people would have had to be let go and those that remained, would have had to pick up their work?

Eric Meslin

This is the way sandwiches have been ordered in Wawa’s for some time now. I can also order a sub on-line from our local supermarket’s deli and have it ready for pickup at any time I specify. Technology works.

Raising the minimum wage will lead to a rise in pricing or a reduction of other costs to compensate.

We live in Florida (federal minimum wage), where we had an interesting McDonalds experience this weekend. We’ve been out of town in our RV for 6 months. We stopped for a quick $1 burger and shake at our local store and after ordering were given a large plastic number to set on our table. We waited for 15 minutes for our meal to be delivered to us. All the while we watched several employees wandering around with food and making deliveries. They have either increased employment or negatively impacted kitchen operations. Since it took so long for two basic burgers, I’d guess the latter.

Tom Becher

Labor costs money, and the worker always forgets that the wages he makes are just part of the cost of doing business. Add on S.S. contributions, insurance (if any) uniforms breaks, meals or discounted meals etc. That robot is bought just once and barring breakdown never needs to be paid again. I remember when type was set by hand. (little pieces of lead )with the letters on them set in trays to form words and sentences. Then came line o type where a man (never a woman) would set at a keyboard and type and when a line was done hot lead was poured into the machine and out came a “line o type” which was then assembled into a sentence or paragraph. Now its done by a person setting at a computer keyboard and the “type” is etched into a sheet of plastic. Time is saved and people fired The way of the modern world


Well, this is timely… NY has a mandated $12.75 minimum wage in restaurants going into effect and BK installed these self serve order takers immediately in NY, McDonalds has them coming to ALL locations in NY, Dunkin Donuts will no longer serve anything but donuts so they are not a “restaurant”, and Marks Pizza (NY equivalent to Dominoes) is closing the EXACT number of stores to duck under the wage requirement. (per WHAM13.com)

Politicians thought there would be no reaction to their unfunded mandate? Now thousands of New Yorkers who thought they’d get raises got pink slips….

Neal Davis

Oh, and I neglected to say, “thank you for the commentary!” Happy new year to Gail and you, Chuck! 🙂

Neal Davis

I think that I always enjoy reading your observations and wish that you had a few more YouTube videos presenting them. However, whether in print, or video form, I still enjoy them.


Supply and demand, cost vs value have always been king of the markets, regardless of meddlesome government tinkering and feel good utopian thinking. Make labor more expensive by force of law, and workers WILL be fired because income didn’t rise to meet costs. Rewarding good minimum wage workers was the intent of tipping, but now its just an extra expectation/tax on your biill. To avoid layoffs, your burger can cost $20, but then the burger joint goes under when no one buys at that price. Rules are rules, the bottom line is finite. Only governments can dream new money into existence.

Scott Gitlin

As already mentioned, these “robots” are not the result of a higher minimum wage – they are part of a business trend to automate wherever possible. As jobs at every level are eliminated, there are less choices for those who do not have the specific skills needed for the remaining areas of employment.


The politician are so far removed from the real world, that they do not realize that businesses will not be told to pay a low level, low skill employee $15 per hour. Strange how the people who run our government always have such great ideas on how to spend other people’s money. And if we don’t like it, they force us to, by passing laws that make us. PS: McDonald and other fast food restaurants are not careers, but a way to supplement your income.

Gene Bjerke

For a while now I have been saying that the jobs of the future (quickly becoming the present) are in robotics or automation. More and more jobs are being replaced by machines. If you want a job, you should be one of the people designing, building, and maintaining the machines. Hopefully, you will be able to get those skills in a Community College, rather than having to go into debt to go to college.


I’ve seen the McDonald’s “robots” in the Houston, Texas area also. The very first time the employee asked me if I’d like to try it, it malfunctioned, guess because it had just been installed the night before?

Calvin Rittenhouse

I’ve seen a Wendy’s that has automated ordering here in Columbus, Ohio. This is Wendy’s headquarters and a test market, so I don’t know if they’re widespread yet. I’ve been there twice and I’m not ready to learn how to make them work. A McDonald’s here also has them, but they still have the full human-staffed counter, so they’re not getting much action.

The minimum wage story is a smokescreen. Those units have been in development for several years. By the way, minimum wage jobs have not been the province of teenagers for at least twenty years. I have been a minimum-wage worker in that time, and neither I nor my co-workers were “beginner” workers.