This McDonald’s in Texas is the first-ever with a fully automated drive-through

A viral video of a McDonald’s in Fort Worth, Texas shows the latest example of automation in the food industry.

This McDonald’s
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location with “enhanced technology” has an Order Ahead drive-thru lane for customers who have already ordered, eliminating the apparently-not-so-crucial interaction between customers and employees.

Here is a video of the order-ahead lane and the restaurant that was posted on TikTok this week:

The video shows a conveyer belt, from which customers grab food after ordering ahead. The location has no people taking customers’ orders, in favor of customers using mobile or touchscreen ordering.

“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,” explains Keith Vanecek, the franchisee operating the test restaurant.

This McDonald’s location isn’t fully automated, and still has a staff preparing the food. The restaurant has shifted importance from dining-in to speed of orders getting out to hungry customers.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s told the Guardian that the test concept “is not fully automated,” and said the restaurant employs a number of workers similar to that of a normal store.

MarketWatch reached out to McDonald’s to learn of its future plans with automated drive-throughs, but didn’t immediately hear back.

Many people, including the podcaster who posted the video of the Fort Worth McDonald’s, were critical of the fast food giant’s move to automation. Much of the discussion was around the wages of McDonald’s workers, and the overall minimum wage in Texas, which is $7.25.

According to a living wage calculator developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a single adult with no children needs to make at least $17.03 an hour in Forth Worth to live within acceptable living standards.

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Estimates from the job board Indeed show that McDonald’s restaurant employees in Fort Worth make on average $9.99 to $11.64 an hour.

Many U.S. McDonald’s restaurants pay workers slightly above minimum wage, according to research from Princeton University — the federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25, but can be higher depending on the state.

McDonald’s employees are not unionized, and some have suggested that a union could help workers negotiate better pay, something that has occurred for McDonald’s workers in Denmark — McDonald’s workers there make $21.13 an hour, according to the company’s annual report.

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The semi-automated McDonald’s is only a test location at this point, the company says, and is part of McDonald’s “Accelerating the Arches” growth strategy.

“I am immensely proud to have this new restaurant concept serving our customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex,” Vanecek says.

This McDonald’s joins a growing list of food establishments being influenced by automation in recent years. In addition to helping with tasks like ordering and food pickup, these “robot” chefs have helped make foods including sushi, cocktails, burgers and pizza.

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