Once upon a time, if you wanted a burger from McDonald’s, you went inside the store or took a trip through the drive-thru. Nowadays, though, you can walk up to what many have referred to as the new Big Mac ATM and get your burger fix with absolutely zero interaction.
Free Big Macs – But Only for a Limited Time
Imagine walking up to an ATM, but instead of getting cash, you can withdraw a Big Mac, instead. For Boston natives, that’s exactly what happened at the McDonald’s store in Kenmore Square this past January. While the promotion was designed to help bring light to the two new Big Mac sizes by offering up a free Big Mac to everyone who ordered, it got many people talking about the dispensability of humans in the fast food industry. After all, if people can order their food from what looks to be a giant cellphone, why are cashiers and order-takers still necessary? Are their jobs at risk?
What the Boston Chain Owner Had to Say
The owner of the Kenmore Square McDonald’s location, Vincent Spadea, told news outlets that the ATMs were not in any way a signal that the restaurant will replace cashiers and order-takers with machines. He said it was merely a publicity stunt designed to get more people involved in the new Big Macs, much like the idea behind giving customers a free bottle of “special sauce” in locations across the country. He later said that the chain is always considering new technologies for modernizing restaurants.
Not So Fast
Conversely, per Neil Saunders, who is the managing director at GlobalData, a retail analysis firm, the new Big Mac sizes aren’t going to carry McDonald’s as far as they would hope. Saunders said that with wages rising and businesses scrambling to find new, more innovative ways to save themselves money, it isn’t too far-fetched that automation will play a vital role in streamlining operations. He believes that the ATM system introduced in Kenmore Square points toward McDonald’s plan to allow customers to place their own orders via touchscreens, pay remotely via their smartphones, or even order their meals ahead of time.
Would it Benefit McDonald’s?
For a fast food chain like McDonald’s, keeping people coming is about making constant changes to the menu to keep things fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, all those changes require marketing – as was evident with the Big Mac ATM giveaway in Kenmore Square. Saunders says that automatic operations to a degree would free up more money for McDonald’s to spend on their menu changes, including surveying, marketing, and the local introduction of menu items on “trial” bases. McDonald’s is testing home delivery in a few markets following a 1% decline in sales from 2015 to 2016, as well.
McDonald’s will always be a popular fast food chain, but the truth is that there’s more competition in that sector than ever before. Although Kenmore Square McDonald’s owner Vincent Spadea says there’s no plan to make the Big Mac ATMs a permanent thing, analysts seem to think it could be a smart move for the chain.
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