Fast Food Industry To Go Self-Service?

Fast Food News is claiming that the time will soon come when you will no longer need to rely upon a teenage Deadhead taking a break from popping his pimples to cook up your burgers: the fast food industry is moving towards self-service.

Fast food restaurants, of course, have been experimenting with self-service for years. KFC, Taco Bell, Subway and Arby’s have all tried to roll-out self-service in their stores. That the industry itself might be headed in that direction is evidenced by this quote from a a National Restaurant Association representative:

Self-service will lets consumers feel more in control because they’re getting exactly what they ordered. Businesses can deploy the staff elsewhere and refocus on speeding up order delivery.

Fast Food News is excited about this, but we’re not quite sure we get it. The only reason we go out for Fast Food is because we don’t have to prepare the food itself. We can make up a cheeseburger at home that’ll taste better than anything some greasy line cook can microwave up: what we’re paying for is not the food or the taste but for some anonymous minimum-wage peon to slavishly toil for us. Fast food without someone else preparing it just makes it food… and practically inedible food at that.

And, of course, there’s the fact that self-preparation at a McDonald’s isn’t going to involve you sizzling a paddy against a red-hot grill anyway. All it would take is for one kid to trip on a milkshake and land face first against it. No, what they mean is that you will be able to use tongs to withdraw a soggy patty from a heat tray under a lamp and then lay your own rubbery bacon and fluorescent orange cheese on top. A good way to make fast food sound even less appealing, but not a good way to drum up business.

Self-serve the new quick-serve? [Fast Food News]

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  1. I don’t think it’s “self-prepared” it’s essentially “self-ordered”. In other words, instead of hoping that Skippy The Cashier keys in “No Pickle”, the consumer would be the one keying in the order, so he knows it at least got ordered properly (which would probably eliminate half of all fast-food screw-ups if you think about it, the other half being the ones that the cooks screw up).

    I actually kinda view this as a good thing as well, especially since I’m one of those people who’s always ordering my McD’s orders “minus this, plus that, extra of that other thing”, which means I won’t spend ten minutes trying to convince someone who only knows “Ding! Fries Are Done!” what I mean by “Quarter Pounder, Hold the Cheese”.

  2. CanuckGreg says:

    Derek is right on the money. Read Friedman’s “The World is Flat” – it talks about self-order kiosks (along with outsourcing of drive-thru order taking) as the next big thing in the fast food business.

  3. AcidReign says:

    …..Then they’ll be directly competing with sandwich vending machines. Pre-cooked, rubbery burgers reconstituted in the microwave. Yummy.

  4. Lars says:

    Okay, first off don’t read Friedman’s “The World is Flat” unless you like pompous prose that will not educate nor enlighten you but will instead turn you into a pompous know it all.

    Secondly, I definitely go to BK for the taste. The Whopper is a thing of beauty. Yes, when I make it at home it’s better. But it’s a different kind of better. The BK combination of toppings, low grade beef, and extra fat somehow add up to magical flavor.

  5. mschlock says:

    Self-service kiosks are usability nightmares waiting to happen, as anyone who’s been stuck behind someone trying to puzzle out an ATM knows. (Hit the GREEN BUTTON! No, the GREEN one!) And don’t even get me started on the self-checkout lanes at Albertson’s. *shudder*

    When it comes to user interfaces, there is no such thing as “idiot-proof” in this world. And even though I personally do go to fast-food joints every once in awhile, my faith in the interface-using skillz of the average fast-food patron is really not all that high.

    There’s a reason there are counter droids, and that is because even if they are droids, after entering fifty million orders they will generally be able to enter your entire order faster than Joe Firsttimer can find the “no mayo” button. Gods above preserve us.

  6. Bubba Barney says:

    I think the future of fast food is going to go the direction of ‘Fast Casual’ restaurants like Noodle’s and Chipotle. It’s a big thing here in Denver.

    Plus we are getting a rash of ‘fast casual’ salad places around here.

    Check it: http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3606252

  7. Meh. I can’t see it happening unless the systems are miraculously usable (doubtful) or the average consumer gets much much smarter (more doubtful.)

    I go to one of the very, very top Universities in the nation, so the kids here should be pretty smart, and when I go to classes I have to use a little machine to pre-pay for my parking. It’s easy; you key in your spot numbers, you press a button, you give it cash/credit, and you’re done. I don’t know WHY it mystifies people so, especially since I must assume that the majority of people who use this machine are students and, in March, this is not the first time they have ever used this machine. But for some reason I know that if there is even one person in front of me to use this thing, I am looking at a ten-minute wait, minimum. (That’s assuming I walk them through it. Left to their own devices, who knows what would happen.) God help you if it’s someone over the age of 25 trying to operate this thing. I can’t imagine self-ordered fast food would be much better.