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McDonald's testing self-serve kiosks in Raleigh


Posted 1:30 p.m.

RALEIGH (AP) — Consumers accustomed to banking at ATMs and paying for groceries with a machine instead of a counter clerk are getting a chance to order a Big Mac and fries the same way.

McDonald's is testing kiosks that allow fast-food customers to place orders by touching food and drink icons on a computer screen instead of telling a clerk at the register what they want. A recorded voice from the machine prompts them as they make their choices.

Customers pay at the kiosk instead of the register by putting a $1, $5, $10 or $20 bill into the machine. It prints a receipt that the customer takes to a designated register to get change and pick up the order.

McDonald's has installed the kiosks at six restaurants in the Raleigh area as part of a two-city test of automated ordering, said Darnell Crews, McDonald's field-operations manager for Eastern North Carolina. The other market where the chain is testing the kiosks is Denver, where the machines take debit cards and give change, Crews said.

While banks and gas stations have long offered their own version of automated self-service, other retailers are eyeing automation for its potential to cut labor costs while delivering speed and convenience for customers.

McDonald's is using its touch-screen kiosks near the register counters and in the play areas of selected restaurants in Cary, Durham and Apex, Crews said.

McDonald's theory in testing the machines is not only that they will prove more convenient, but that some people would rather deal with them than with a clerk, Crews said.

Not Mike Michel, 41, of Apex, who said the machine is slower than telling the order to a clerk.

"And it sort of bothers me, because I know people are going to be out of work now," he said, punching in an order for a two-cheeseburger value meal at a McDonald's on U.S. 64 in Apex.

Crews said clerks displaced by the machines are reassigned to other duties. If the devices are no faster than a person, they can reduce the human-to-human miscommunication that all too often turns two cheeseburgers into a double cheeseburger.

It's no small point for McDonald's, which lags its competition in speed and accuracy of handling orders, industry and internal surveys show.

But the company reported resurgent U.S. sales Wednesday due in part to the success of entree-sized salads and McGriddles breakfast sandwiches. Third-quarter profit rose 12 percent to $547.4 million on sales of $4.5 billion, the company reported.

Claire Watkins of Raleigh said she and her sons Daniel, 13, and Michael, 10, liked punching in their orders, though technology doesn't cure everything.

"Michael, what did you order?" Claire Watkins asked her 10-year-old, as she checked the completed order printed on the screen.

It was the 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, prompting one last order from Watkins: "Hit 'Delete'!"

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Now it is very rare to find one that fill your car and wash your windshield while you sit confortably in the car.

The upper peninsula of Michigan has lots of full service gas stations. I don't think I've even seen one in the lower peninsula though.

At our local grocery stores, they have the machines where you can check yourself out, or you can go get checked out by a cashier. It's always faster to go through the cashier's line, since inevitably I get stuck behind someone who doesn't know how to orperate the machine, or the machine breaks.

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