I saw McDonald’s customers choosing between the screen and the man. It was shocking

A person holding a phone next to a McDonald's logo

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Sometimes, I end up doing research without realizing it. Or even like.

Also technically incorrect

Not your true scientific type, you understand. The kind that light up my world in unexpected ways.

Here I was the other day at Lisbon Airport, Terminal 2, suddenly hungry.

Far and away one of the community’s premier culinary sanctuaries. McDonald’s. So while my wife went to get something healthy, I succumbed to the joys of a Portuguese Big Mac and, of course, fries.

There were six large screens that you could order. All were occupied, so I went to the counter, where a nice man quickly punched through my needs. The food arrived quickly, some might say annoyingly early.

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Then I sat down and watched the flow of men towards the red and yellow beacon.

Screens had an advantage. They were placed near the aisle. Hence, many are immediately drawn towards them.

Tapped with great confidence. By the time I sat there, I had no problem navigating these wide half-iPods.

My completely unscientific estimate is that for every customer who ordered at the counter, 30 people picked screens.

Are screens necessarily fast? I really don’t know. At the counter you look at the menu, talk to a man, then pay. On the screen, you have to do a little scrolling, a little tapping, a little waiting, and then pay.

However, it seemed clear that the majority of people believed that screens would give them instant gratification.

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I hear you mutter that only old people wandered up to the counter. not that. There is no age difference that I can see.

However, what is interesting is that among those who chose to go to the counter, the majority were men. Men who were on their own and men who were in groups.

They may have special orders that they feel a screen can’t handle. No one wants to see how much they order or what they do. They couldn’t have been seen threatening the screens, of course.

Watching humanity in action, natural choices — or, choices that felt natural to them — is absolutely absorbing.

If you order through a screen, the amount of human interaction is limited to someone handing you a plate or a bag and you — maybe — saying “thank you.”

And yet this is fast food, so the most important thing is not human interaction. It is driven by speed, demand.

On-screen ordering is just one aspect of the future of fast food. For example, McDonald’s is placing robot orders at the drive-thru.

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Yet the company’s CEO, Chris Kempczynski, continues to emphasize that McDonald’s doesn’t have a completely robotic future. He recently explained: “Robots and all that stuff, while it’s great for getting headlines, it’s not practical in most restaurants.”

I fear that what he says in practice is profitable.

As with all research, I had questions. What about men and counter order? Why don’t people see ordering on screen as inherently less hygienic? Will mobile ordering replace these big screens in the future?

However, I suspect you only have one question: How was my Big Mac?

Honestly, it broke in seconds.

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