More McDonald's Employees Can Expect to Get the Boot as the Company Automates the Drive-Thru

Well done, “Fight for $15” proponents, your victories against the largest fast-food chain in the world, McDonald’s, has given its employees the minimum wage you said they deserve.


Well…at least the ones McDonald’s kept after they began replacing humans with machines. Machines that don’t require raises, take sick time or protest against them in the streets.

According to, that list of employees may be getting smaller as McDonald’s has acquired AI technology that would automate the drive-thru line. The corporation did this by purchasing a tech company called Apprente, which specializes in voice recognition technology. They plan to implement this tech, not just at the drive-thru, but throughout the kiosks in its store.

Engadget reported that while it may improve the tech within restaurants, it will likely take a hefty toll on the employees:

The fast food giant say there’s potential to expand Apprente’s technology into other areas, like mobile and kiosk ordering. But while the new technology may make life easier for customers, may come at the cost of human jobs. McDonald’s self-service kiosks will be implemented across all US restaurant locations by 2020, which could reduce the need to hire as many human cashiers.

McDonald’s has been expanding its use of tech within its restaurants, and has acquired other tech companies as well that would lead to even greater AI functions throughout the stores:

The food chain’s acquisition of Apprente is its third tech deal this year. In April it acquired Dynamic Yield, a personalized data startup, in order to customize its drive-thru menus by the weather, time of day, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items. It also bought a minority stake in Plexure, a New Zealand-based mobile app technology company.


What’s more, McDonald’s plans to have these kiosks in every store by 2020, effectively eliminating much of the human element from the McDonald’s restaurant experience.

While it’s neat to think that a lot of the process to obtain food will equate to a few presses of a screen, it does mean that the jobs activists were fighting to get more people money for are essentially going away, and McDonald’s can’t be blamed. Machines follow their programming, don’t require breaks, nor do they require a bi-monthly check that costs the company billions.

Activists didn’t anticipate the true cost of forcing a corporation to pay more money, but as the machines roll in, they’re learning quickly.


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