McDonald’s to Test Automated Drive-Thrus

McDonald's to Test Automated Drive-Thrus mcdonald's golden arches (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

By Jeremy Frankel | Tuesday, 08 June 2021 08:15 PM

Minimum wage increases are frequently talked about by policymakers, and McDonald’s is doing what it can to prevent any business losses that may come as a result by implementing voice-automated drive-thrus.

CEO Chris Kempczinski announced during an investor conference that McDonald’s is testing voice-ordering technology at ten Chicago-area restaurants.

Kempczinski added that the technology will appear in restaurants nationwide within the next few years, saying that “[T]here is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S. with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather — I mean, on and on and on and on. Do I think in five years from now you’re going to see a voice in the drive-thru? I do, but I don’t think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so.”

In addition, former McDonald’s CEO and current chairman of FAT Brands Ed Rensi told Fox Business that higher minimum wages lead to expense and price increases, saying that “[W]hen you raise prices 1%, you lose about 1% of your transaction costs. And you have to work really hard to recover that through promotion, marketing, you know, all kinds of local events and it’s not an easy thing to do, particularly when you’re living on a very high number of transactions. You got a choice, you go broke by raising prices or you go broke by losing money because you can’t raise prices.”

A Congressional Budget Office study from earlier this year found that a $15 federal minimum wage increase, as proposed by Democrats over the last few years, would lift 900,000 people out of poverty, but cost 1.4 million jobs by 2025.