Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Self-service making its way into fast food

As WFAA in Dallas/Ft. Worth tells us,

Ending years of flirtation, the fast-food industry finally appears ready to take the plunge into self-service ordering with kiosks, some restaurant technology experts say.

Taking a page from banks and airlines, major chains including McDonald's, Burger King and Subway are field-testing machines that allow consumers to order and pay for their meals without any human contact.

None of the companies has announced a systemwide launch. Still, experts say the growing use of self-service at the grocer and the gas pump has chains thinking more seriously of joining the do-it-yourself generation.

I've yet to see a truly compelling demonstration of self-service ordering in a fast food restaurant, but that might be becuase I generally avoid them during lunchtime, when lines are the longest, and thus (presumably) the self-service machines would have the greatest impact. The article cites rising healthcare costs, staffing problems and efficiency issues as the primary drivers for looking at kiosk technology, but the lack of a strong commitment by any of the major fast food companies leaves me wondering whether this is ready for prime-time yet.

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