Monday, May 16, 2011

McDonald’s to replace workers with robots -- what happened to all those miraculous McJobs?

McDonald’s is to change the way customers order its meals in Europe, partly replacing cashiers and the use of banknotes at its 7,000 fast-food restaurants in the region with touchscreen terminals and swipe cards.

“Ordering food has not changed for 30 or 40 years,” said Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald’s Europe, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The move is part of the fast-food chain’s efforts to woo cash-strapped customers by making its restaurants more convenient and convivial. It is refurbishing stores, and introducing longer opening hours and new menus.

At a time when many retail and consumer companies are racking up sluggish or even shrinking sales in Europe, McDonald’s like-for-like sales rose 5.7 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter – the highest growth out of its three main geographic regions.

Mr Easterbrook said that the changes would make life easier for consumers as well as improve efficiency, with average transactions three to four seconds shorter for each customer. McDonald’s European stores serve 2m customers a day.

Weiky Filho, a student enjoying a burger at McDonald’s in Wimbledon, London, was in favour of the changes. “You don’t need to communicate with staff and it would be much quicker,” he said. (read more)