Panera Bread Replacing Some Cashiers With Kiosks — So Yes, The Robots Have Already Won

Hello, my future overlord. This is what the kiosk looks like.

Hello, my future overlord. This is what the kiosk looks like.

No one panic, but it appears we’re already too late to stem the inevitable tide of robot overlords waiting to take over our planet and suck out our souls via some as yet unimagined technological terror. Because clearly, adding more kiosks and taking away a few cashiers at Panera Bread is a clear sign of that impending doom.

Okay, it’s not that dire. Probably. But Panera is going to be cutting down on the number of cashiers in a new store design, as it attempts to fix its speed problems.

The chain has faced criticism in the fast over its service, notes Businessweek, so why not put the power in customers’ hands with kiosks to order from directly?

“The dirty little secret in the food industry is one in seven orders is wrong,” Panera Chief Executive Ron Shaich said in an interview. “We’re one in ten, a little better than average. Half of those inaccuracies happen during order input.”

Here’s how it’ll work: If you’re dining in, you can order your food exactly how you want it at a kiosk and then grab a store pager connected to your request and seat yourself. When the food is ready, a Panera staffer will bring it to you when the pager starts going off and you wave it wildly in the air in an effort to direct said worker.

Customers can also order on their mobile phones from wherever they’re sitting in the restaurant, and skip the kiosks and cashiers altogether. Or if you want your food to go, you can order it ahead of time and pay for it online, then pick it up from a dedicated shelf at the store. Of course, it still might be wrong, so you’ll need to check to be sure.

And if you’re worried about robots stealing jobs from hardworking Americans, Shaich insists that while the average restaurant will have eight kiosks and one to two fewer registers, the company isn’t cutting its workforce.

Panera plunked down some serious cash for the new system — spending $42 million on the technology involved. It’ll roll out around 2016, so we’ve still got some time to steel ourselves for the revolution.

More Kiosks, Fewer Cashiers Coming Soon to Panera [Businessweek]

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