Will drive-thru windows one day be replaced by high-tech vending machines? A McDonald’s in Boston is preparing to unveil a Big Mac ATM that will enable customers to be served without coming face-to-face with any human workers, the Boston Globe reports.
The ATM is being installed as a one-day-only stunt on January 31 to promote the chain’s new mini- and maxi-sized Big Macs. Users won’t have to pony up any cash, but they will have to provide their Twitter handle so the machine can send out a promotional tweet from their account.
Much like a regular ATM, the Big Mac ATM doesn’t actually make the product it dispenses: “The burgers are cooked on-site at [a nearby] McDonald’s and then immediately loaded into the heated machine, which is refilled on an ongoing basis to ensure fresh quality,” local owner-operator Vincent Spadea explains.
Automated ordering isn’t new for McDonald’s: The chain introduced touch-screen ordering kiosks back in 2015, though diners still have to pick their food up from an actual person.
There are already cupcake ATMs and pizza ATMs, though neither of these actually cook inside the machine — they simply dispense food that’s been pre-prepared by human hands. While McDonald’s is positioning the Big Mac ATM as a marketing stunt rather than a harbinger of human-free restaurants to come — “McDonald’s does not have any further plans with the technology,” Spadea says — it doesn’t take a big leap in logic to see how this kind of technology could eliminate the need for cashiers at quick-service restaurants.
That’s already the case at San Francisco-born Eatsa, a nouveau automat restaurant chain where customers are required to have exactly zero human contact to acquire their quinoa bowls: After ordering via tablet or mobile app, human kitchen staff, who are hidden safely out of sight, prepare the food and place it in electronic cubbies where diners can then pick it up.
Controversial labor secretary nominee/CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s Andy Puzder has also expressed enthusiasm for liberating fast-food restaurants from the trappings of human workers.
• This Machine Will Serve You a Free Big Mac [Boston Globe]
• Pizza ATM Joins Cupcake ATMs as Humans Get Lazier and Lazier [E]
• More Food Tech Coverage [E]