By Richard Buckle on

I am certain that nobody missed the headlines last week: Burger chain Wendy’s is turning to self-service kiosks. Other quick service restaurants have been testing the waters, but Wendy’s is considering offering the option of self-service kiosks to all of their franchise operators.

According to one report in Investor’s Business Daily, “self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across [Wendy’s] 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.”

While this might be new to Americans, I can recall seeing people in Amsterdam duck into shops whose walls were lined with cubicles containing food, then make a selection and head for the cash register.

So, watching self-service kiosks appearing at our favorite burger place isn’t all that shocking. Or is it?

Just one day before the Investor’s Business Daily story, Salon ran the article, “Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist ‘disruption’.”

It’s not enough that someone hands you a cold burger — that hand could be steely cold itself!

According to Salon:

Whereas a fast food worker might toss a frozen patty onto the grill, Momentum Machines’ device shapes burgers from freshly ground meat and then grills them to order …

The machine … also toasts the bun and then slices and adds fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and pickles only after the order is placed. Burgers arrive assembled and ready to serve on a conveyer belt.

Indeed, we will not need staff at all it would seem. As one robot developer said in the Salon article, “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.”

It wouldn’t seem a stretch either if these enhanced devices were to become tightly integrated and compacted into burger kiosks — with a screen to offer burger choices and a chute to deliver your order once a robot has assembled it and stuffed it into a container — debiting your ATM card while at it!

The scary part comes later in the Salon article with the warning that “the major disruption will be in the service sector — which is, after all, where the vast majority of workers are now employed. This trend is already evident in areas like ATMs and self-service checkout lanes, but the next decade is likely to see an explosion of new forms of service sector automation, potentially putting millions of relatively low-wage jobs at risk.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch apparently if bank branch staff were to lose out to the ATM and kind retail and grocery cashiers were to lose out to self-service checkouts and, yes, fast food staff were to lose out to kiosks and robots!

I can see a transformation under way in which multiple devices morph into one entity and cash is dispensed along with burgers and all the trimmings. You will be able to get cold cash and hot fries!

The only limit is our imagination. Yes, we can do it all — and the payment solution software will require little change to accommodate it.

As OmniPayments Inc. CEO Yash Kapadia sees it, “it comes down to how easy it is to extend functionality, and any good modular payments solution should be able to do just that. OmniPayments shouldn’t have a problem as we are doing variations on pretty much all of this already!”

Cold cash and hot fries? As long as there’s no ketchup on my Franklins, I’m fine.

Possibly, it’s only a matter of time. And for me, more options to grab comfort food while on the fly is a godsend. For others, however, it might be a step closer to desecrating mealtime.

Ah, but it is all about choice. And ultimately, success or failure, robots or real, we will be the ones to decide. As for all those working in the service sector, it’s time to brush up on your maintenance skills. We will require a whole new infrastructure to keep everything humming right along — and I’m not talking about small change!


Burgers for cash … or burgers and cash?