Thanks in part to one-button services like Seamless and the fact that the largest generation in history was in part raised by their cell phones, Millennials "don't like dealing with people at fast food restaurants." Now, to service the misanthropic Snapchat-loving hordes, Wendy's is the latest fast food chain to install self-service kiosks at its restaurants.
Wendy's expects to have the kiosks in more than 1,000 stores by the end of the year, giving customers the option of skipping human interaction when ordering burgers and fries.
"Many of our franchisees are excited about the kiosk technology, and they're being frequently requested," Heidi Schauer, a spokeswoman for Wendy's, told MUNCHIES in an e-mail. "First and foremost, we're exploring kiosks because customer reaction to them is very positive."
Kiosks are a trend long in the making, and are the result of improved technology, changing consumer preferences, and shifting economics within the fast food industry. Millennials may not like the traditional counter experience, but pro-worker initiatives for higher pay like the Fight for $15 movement and increased minimum wages in some states have also led fast-food chains to turn to the cheaper, and sometimes more efficient, kiosks.
Wendy's chief information officer, David Trimm, told The Columbus Dispatch a typical store will receive three kiosks for a price of $15,000, and that recuperating the cost will take less than two years. High-traffic stores will get the kiosks first, and a total of 16 percent of all Wendy's will have them by the end of the year.
"We believe they will help us drive some efficiency in busy times of day by providing customers an alternative way to order," Schauer told MUNCHIES. " It's still early in the roll out, but we also believe we could see additional efficiencies with labor and improve the overall customer experience.
"It's important to note that we're not eliminating the option to place your order at the counter."
As we've seen with robotic pizza makers, robotic bartenders, robotic sushi makers, and (not particularly successful) robotic waiters, automation is inevitably coming to nearly every sector of the food service industry. Andrew Puzder, the Carl's Jr. CEO who was President Trump's original pick for labor secretary but withdrew amidst attacks on his business record and character, has spoken out as an advocate of automation in the fast food workplace.
Last year, Puzder told Business Insider that robots are "always polite, they always up-sell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case."
Anyway, next time you're in a Wendy's, you may find yourself face-to-face with a screen instead of a person. It will probably have little bearing on what you pick for your 4 for $4, but maybe, just maybe, all those fun little buttons could convince you to spring for a Frosty.