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McDonalds – Do you want a robot with that?

by MAX JONES / Tuesday, 31st May 2016


I’m sure you’re all aware of the “AI takeover” theory – you know, the hypothetical scenario in which artificial intelligence (AI) becomes the dominant form of intelligence on Earth & us mere-mortals become slaves to the robot generation. Well, according to the ex-CEO of McDonald’s, such a day may be closer than we think…

Despite the fact that McDonalds have denied claims made by its former CEO that it plans to recruit robots in place of staff in an attempt to cut costs, the hysteria around the potential robotic revolution is still becoming stronger each day. This all came about through claims made by the ex-CEO, Ed Rensi that a rise in minimum wage to $15 an hour, may cause McDonald’s to replace its workers with robots. It was a “common sense” alternative to employing people on minimum wage, said Rensi. Rensi argued that recruiting employees on at least $15 (or £10) an hour would make no sense whatsoever, when a cheaper alternative would be to buy a $35,000 robotic arm that could do the same job. & arguably a lot quicker, without turning up late, ill or feeling a little worse for wear after the night before. Despite the criticism, Rensi was quoted in the Daily Mail suggesting that the shift was “going to happen whether you like it or not”.

So, does this spell the end for McDonald employees? Will all new recruits simply be tested on speed and efficiency, leaving personality & customer service at the door? A McDonald’s spokesperson told the Daily Mail that the suggestions alleged by Mr. Rensi were completely untrue & instead the rise of wage was in line with the on-going protests sweeping America.

Let’s say Mr. Rensi’s allegations were true, what would the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace mean for those who are in the unfortunate position of being out of work at the moment? For example 42-year-old Milton Waddams, an unemployed fast food worker, was quoted telling reporters he was extremely disappointed at the news. I don’t want to quote the exact terminology the gentleman used, but safe to say he was feeling very emotive around the subject. & I guess Milton is testament to the increasing resistance in recruitment around the rise of AI in the workplace. While I can appreciate AI leads to lower (if not no!) error, no cost of employment & no hygiene issues, I think one of the main reasons companies get repeat business is through the personal relationships they build with employees and the brand as a whole.

For example, let’s say you’re a young, animated graphic designer & you were in search for your next big job. You call up two of the best recruitment agencies in town & on one line you get a robot & on the other you get Bob Smith, both of whom may or may not have the perfect job for you. Who would you automatically go with? I know you know the answer. Bob. Bob every time, 100 times over, Bob, Bob, Bob! Why? Because of the rapport you will no doubt build up with Bob throughout the time of your job hunt. After all people like people who are like themselves, or how they want to be – now what part of that can you relate to a robot?

I guess the bottom line is, robots won’t be taking over the world of employment anytime soon, AI domination isn’t around the corner & you’ll still be able to get your Double Cheese burger with extra fries served to you by someone with the same genetic makeup as yourself. Don’t panic guys, don’t panic.