Finding the right balance between automation and people
By John Lofstock, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Decisions
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
McDonald’s has very publicly had to bear the brunt of wage hike advocates that are pushing for a national increase in the minimum wage to $15, regardless of the impact it has on businesses, the local economy and current staffing levels.
Yet the reality is that $1 hamburgers, the high cost of real estate and $15 per hour wages just don’t add up.
One McDonald’s franchisee recently told Business Insider that the price increases needed to offset any added labor costs “would cause a complete collapse in guest counts. I see no other options but the company paying to keep operators alive until they figure out how to reduce the labor required by 30 percent.”
The labor movement may win the battle for wage increases, but it’s unlikely to win the war.
In fact, Home Depot, Lowe’s and many supermarket chains have been training their customers for years to use self-checkout systems, which often utilize one employee for every four checkout lanes. An early c-store adopter is New Jersey’s Quick Chek, which operates a high-volume store on Route 46 in Lodi that has proved every bit as fast and convenient as a manned register.
McDonald’s, which reportedly ordered more than 10,000 touchscreen kiosks in Europe last year to replace cashiers, is also said to be testing robotic arms to serve customers after they have ordered. A self-serve McCafé coffee station last month was spotted in test mode in downtown Chicago.
Touchscreen technology is meant to speed up the ordering and offer more customization options for consumers, all while reducing opportunities for human error. More importantly, they don’t call in sick and never forget to upsell.
Such retail technology investments offer no easy choices; it is precisely the people technology is replacing that help connect you to your consumers. In many chains, people are the competitive advantage.
The challenge is going to be finding the right balance for your organization. These are tough decisions, but they are important decisions that have to be made sooner rather than later.
- What’s Your 10-Year Retail Strategy? – Convenience Store Decisions
- McDonald’s shoots down fears it is planning to replace cashiers with kiosks – Business Insider
Photo: Wikimedia – By Kgbo
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will the increasing use of automation lead to more detached shopping experiences at retail? What tips would you have for stores looking to balance the benefits of automation versus the costs and benefits of labor?