Well, it’s happening. We’ve seen restaurants begin to employ AI and robots. Usually, these are one-off novelty shops or small chains. Now the biggest fast-food chain on the planet may be getting into the game.
According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s is testing new tech at a suburban Chicago location. The drive-through is void of human workers as customers talk to artificial intelligence which features voice recognition software. Inside the kitchen, robots operate the deep fryer, tossing the fries and chicken into the oil. The new technology is being tested in a bid to help cut down on customer wait times which McDonald’s executives admit have grown in recent years.
Could AI Replace McDonald’s Workers?
Employing artificial intelligence has another benefit for companies like McDonald’s. According to the National Restaurant Association, many operators are struggling to fill open positions. This partially thanks to the rising minimum wage in many states and low unemployment. Of course, making an investment in AI versus paying human workers also could help the bottom line.
Turning to artificial intelligence raises concerns amongst workers that it might cost some jobs. As per usual, McDonald’s says workers have nothing to worry about.
“The idea of technology is to help our crew—to make it easier and better for them,” said Mason Smoot, a McDonald’s senior vice president.
Smoot also said that the testing of the voice-activated drive-throughs and robotic fryers will be expanded to other restaurants. No word on timing or how much the investment in the new tech would cost the company or its franchisees.