Earlier this month a Boston McDonald’s offered Big Macs via an ATM, and at some of its other stores, customers can order meals via a kiosk. As the company looks at an automated future, how would it affect its small-town stores?
“They won’t get that interaction between the people. Because it is a smaller community, we know each other more,” said Monica Fanzini, a student at Central Michigan University and employee of the Williamston McDonald’s.
While there will always be those who don’t find human interactions to be necessary, many would like to see the the implementation of technology into the daily life style slow down, such as the older customers who frequent the McDonald’s location in Williamston.
“I think that it would test customer loyalty, because I think that people want that interaction, and they want that friendliness and the smiles,” said Katie Bruce, the general manager at the McDonald’s in Williamston.
Losing the human element of customer service could prove especially detrimental to smaller, more community-based locations.
“If you’re having a bad day and somebody can turn it around by just being genuinely nice to you while taking your order, you want come come in and go through that again,” Bruce said.
If McDonald’s went to full automation, Bruce said, customers would lose the personal connection with employees that helps drive loyalty to the company.
“We have a lot more regulars out here, just getting to know them through their orders, their names, starting a joke with them, I think a lot of them that are alone enjoy coming in every day for that interaction,” Bruce said.
Automation can also lead to the loss of jobs.
“I would say that if we went automated, probably most fast food places would go automated, so they would probably have to do yard work, grocery stores. I think that it would be a lot more limited for them if we went automated,” Bruce said.
Fanzini said she has been pleased with how McDonald’s has been willing to work around her busy college schedule.
“They’re very generous on working with me and my schedule because I go to Central, so it’s an hour and a half away from here and I’m able to work every other weekend,” Fanzini said. “Even on breaks, I can tell them these are the days I’m available, these are the times I’m available, and then they set me in certain times and we are able to work with each other,”
Melinda Hull has been working at the McDonald’s in Williamston for about four years and said that her job has been a wonderful experience.
“I think it’s fantastic, when I first started working here I didn’t have a car so I could walk to work and I’m earning money,” Hull said.
Despite being a part of the huge restaurant chain that is McDonald’s, the Williamston location relies heavily on the local community.
“It’s different because I used to work in Lansing so being out here in a smaller town, our business focuses a lot on what the town does. So if it’s sports season we get more busy during those times. If it’s community events that are going on, that’s our busy season. When it’s cold and wintery, we slow down a lot,” Bruce said.