Memes circulating on social media suggest that McDonald’s has introduced its answer to a proposed $15 an hour minimum wage hike: Robots (aka Kiosks).
Some memes feature the graphic above and imply that a minimum wage increase $15 an hour – as proposed by some presidential candidates – has been met with a response by McDonald’s to replace workers with kiosks in order to skirt the higher wages. One meme reads:
You think you deserve $15/hour?
Meet Your Replacement
The use of kiosks at McDonald’s is not new, as the chain implemented them throughout Europe several years ago. When those machines were first installed, McDonald’s answered claims at the time that it was moving to replace workers with machines. A 2011 report on the chain’s use of kiosks quoted a spokesman for McDonald’s Europe as saying, “Front counters remain a focal point of service where we have installed self-order kiosks, and customers can decide whether they wish to place their order at the counter or through kiosks. Staff are on hand in the dining area to assist customers using the kiosks.”
2015: Kiosks Arrive in US
The McDonald’s Europe spokesman said that the use of kiosks could actually increase staff at restaurants using the machines, due to increased volume. At that time McDonald’s said it was not considering kiosks in the U.S., but in 2015 the chain began rolling out kiosks across the country.
The idea that McDonald’s was attempting to skirt possible minimum wage increases was fueled in part by Bennigan’s CEO Paul Mangiamele, who told Business Insider that kiosks like those rolling out at McDonald’s were directly related to rising labor costs. “Many, many concepts … are going to kiosks because we have to address, somehow, the rising costs of operating in our businesses,” he said.
McDonald’s responded by noting that cashiers would still be on hand. “Similar to ordering from an app, the technology (any technology such as self-order kiosk, mobile phone, web ordering), offers additional service options, giving customers the ability to control the way they wish to experience and engage with McDonald’s,” a spokesman told Business Insider.
Despite their refutation, some franchise owners said that minimum wage as a “major threat” and suggested that McDonald’s should invest in labor savings, including kiosks and automatic fry dispensers.
You can see a video from Business Insider from October 2015 which tests out a McDonald’s kiosk.
Fortune pointed out that kiosks will cost between $120,000 and $160,000 but are “useless to 70% of restaurant visitors” because they will not be accessible to drive-thru customers.
McDonald’s has started implementing kiosks at some restaurants across the U.S., but the chain is adamant that this will not reduce the workforce. Fortune states that kiosks will only be useful to 30% of the chain’s clientele, as drive-thru customers must still speak with a live cashier. Despite this, some franchise owners have said that new technology may be the best way to combat rising prices should minimum wage increase.
Do you think kiosks are being installed to avoid paying higher labor costs?