FORT WORTH, Texas — McDonald's new test restaurant near Fort Worth, Texas could be the future of fast-food operators: Instead of human workers handing you a bag at the drive-thru, an automatic conveyer belt brings your order to the window. Ordering is done through kiosks or an app — no humans involved there, either.
In a December blog post, McDonald's said the test restaurant demonstrates its commitment to "finding new ways to serve [customers] faster and easier than ever before."
But not all customers are loving it.
"Well there goes millions of jobs," one commenter on a TikTok video said about the new restaurant said.
"Oh no first we have to talk with Siri and Google [and] now we have to talk to another computer," another one opined.
"I'm not giving my money to robots," another commenter wrote. "Raise the minimum wage!"
Other customers had more personal concerns, expressing worries about how they could get their order fixed if it was incorrectly prepared or how to ask for extra condiments.
"And if they forget an item. Who you supposed to tell, the robot? It defeats the purpose of using the drive thru if you have to go inside for it," one consumer noted.
The test of the automated location comes as companies struggle to hire amid a shrinking labor pool that's pushing wages higher and giving workers more bargaining power. At the same time, automation is gaining a foothold in more industries, with experts predicting that 10 million jobs may be at risk over the next few years — low-wage positions in the fast-food and service industries most of all.
McDonald's, for its part, said the technology will allow its (human) kitchen staff to prepare customer orders more efficiently.
"The technology in this restaurant not only allows us to serve our customers in new, innovative ways, it gives our restaurant team the ability to concentrate more on order speed and accuracy, which makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone," Keith Vanecek, the franchisee operating the test restaurant, said in the blog post.
To be sure, not everyone had negative views about the concept. Some customers expressed optimism that the automated restaurant could improve service and their experience.
And a fair number of wags pointed out that machines aren't always the answer, with references to the burger chain's frequently broken McFlurry machines.
"Yeah but the ice cream machine is currently broken," one Twitter user joked about the new automated restaurant.