Do You Want Fries With That Shake?


In today’s growing world, it seems as if every one wants exactly what they want exactly when they want it. To accommodate this growing trend among needy and picky consumers, many businesses have delved into the world of mass customization. Mass customization is a “rapid, low-cost production that caters to constantly changing unique customer desires” (Heizer and Render 274). This process deals with high volume and high variety, with many parts and component inputs that result in many different and unique output versions. Mass customization dominates almost every economic and industrial sector – shoes, clothing, phones, computers, and now…food!

Due to the increasing trend of mass customization and consumer preference, fast food chains such as McDonald’s and White Castle have implemented kiosks into a few of their stores in the United States that allow customers to create their own customized order at their convenience. If you think about it, it really is ingenious. How many times have you gone to McDonald’s or any other fast-food restaurant, ordered a meal with certain specifications, and the cashier did not relay that information to the kitchen, and your order was messed up? As a picky eater, this happens to me all the time, and it is frustrating. Through the implementation of self-serve kiosks, customers can order their weird or picky combinations in their own privacy without having to repeat that same order back to the cashier multiple times to make sure they have it down correctly.

There are many advantages to using kiosks in fast food restaurants: reduced labor costs, enhanced customization, speed, convenience, and standardized menu information and marketing messages (Blank). Much like how Chipotle utilizes its more well-trained employees during peak rush hour times, these kiosks help alleviate pressure from the employees in restaurants by assisting with customer service (Kiosk Europe). However, there are also some disadvantages to using kiosks when ordering food. These include initial cost for purchase, training, and installation, customer support for when the customer does not understand how to use the machine or when the machine does not work, and maintenance. When looking at the disadvantages, I cannot help but draw comparisons to self-checkouts that many grocery and convenience stores utilize, which we briefly touched on in class. While these kiosks and self-checkouts might save time in theory, if a customer is unfamiliar with the technology, the process takes much more time than ordering or checking out from someone who is trained for that specific task.

From personal experience, I think that kiosks are good in theory, but not so much in practice. This summer, I travelled to Berlin and Prague with DePaul for a business seminar/study aboard. In Berlin, a few of us decided to check out a European McDonald’s to see the differences between an European McDonald’s and an American McDonald’s. Besides the change in general atmosphere, we noticed four kiosks, where people were placing their orders. We decided to try…and we failed. Not only was the kiosk in German, but we could not figure out how to change the language settings, and we were not familiar with the European menu!

Have you ever used a kiosk or tablet to order at a fast food restaurant? If so, how was your experience?

Will fast food kiosks go down the same path as self-checkouts at convenience stores, or will they have more success?


Blank, Christine. “Burgers By Design.” QSR Magazine. January 2014.

Heizer, Jay and Barry Render. “Process Strategy.” Principles of Operations Management. 272-294.

Kiosk Europe.

Meehan, Sarah and Jayne O’Donnell. “Self-lane checkouts boost convenience, theft risk.” USA Today. 9 April 2012.


13 thoughts on “Do You Want Fries With That Shake?

  1. Interesting post. I have actually wondered how long it would take until fast food restaurants would switch to complete computer control. I remember one time when I was in the Atlanta airport and one of their restaurants had the option to use one of these kiosks. The process I felt was slower than just talking to someone but besides that it was a pretty good experience. As for their success compared to self-checkouts I think they will be more successful. The self checkouts require you to perform a skill that people are not use to doing. Whereas at a restaurant all you are doing is clicking on what you want to order which seems like it could be a smoother process.

  2. I’ve never used a kiosk at a restaurant, but I completely agree with you when you say they are good in theory, but not in practice. There is a self service ticket machine at the metra station. Over the summer I was commuting to work from home because I didn’t want to live in the city. I left work ten minutes before my train departs to buy a ticket at the kiosk. It takes me literally 30 seconds to get my tickets and pay. But when I get there, there’s sometimes a line and I see people clicking buttons then clicking the back button and its taking forever, after wasting five minutes they give up. I’ve missed a couple trains because of this and its frustrating. In a fast food restaurant if this was what was happening I would be so pissed because it’s no longer “fast” food. I think they are doomed just like the self service checkout lines.

  3. I have never used a Kiosk at a restaurant before, it seems very impersonal. I like the idea of it in fast food places due to the huge rush of people they receive during lunch and dinner hours. I feel as though this would be better in a fast food chain than any other restaurant. I don’t have any experience with these types of machines other than when I go to self service checkout lines. The one problem I did see occur frequently was that whenever an item wouldn’t scan right away, it would produce an error on the screen not allowing you continues or rescan the item, freezing the screen until an employee can punch in their code. That was very frustrating because they didn’t have many people working so the line was held up for that reason, so I can see a similar scenario playing out for these kiosks in the future.

  4. This is really interesting and I’ve never heard of this. I’ve only seen the mass customizable Coke dispensers (some Wendy’s and any Noodles & Co.). I like those kiosks. The customization allows really helps facilitate interaction with the customer. However, the kiosks you speak about that McDonald’s is using is a little different. In theory, like you said, it is a great idea. I have no personal experience with this, but I’m excited to try it out soon.

  5. I have never come across to these machines at restaurants other than the self checkouts at the super market. Even though it is a good idea and it seems to work over seas I feel that it takes longer to get an order out. People that are not used to self check out can take twice as long to make a payment. Like you said, because of the language barrier you were unable to finish an order overseas. Some people really struggle with machines which makes it really difficult to transition from one system to another, specially older generations. Maybe if the machine would also take voice orders (speech recognition) it might make more sense to even replace workers with the machines.

  6. I really enjoyed your post. I had no idea McDonalds or other fast food chains were using kiosks to try and improve the dining experience. I can definitely see the hurdles of not knowing how to use the new technology and how it can be difficult for people to get used to. From a cost cutting perspective I think it is a great way to be more efficient and save money at the same time.

  7. Like many of the others, I have not been able to experience ordering through kiosks at restaurants. However, it seems when places start to integrate new technologies (such as these ordering kiosks and self-checkout systems) cons always follow the pros of the decision. I agree that these ideas are better in theory than in reality. The hope to lessen error and difficulty while saving much needed time, appears to be some of the main reasons why places are trying to incorporate such machines. On the other hand, when I go to dine-in at a restaurant, the thought of a computer taking my order eliminates my idea of service. The purpose of eating elsewhere rather than your home is not only for the food, but the experience that can be made through interaction with a server. Anyhow, fast-food places are less about quality of service and more about the speed in which you are served. As of the success of these kiosks in McDonald’s locations, the fascination of the idea, I believe, will only last for a while until the reality of its usefulness shows its true colors.

  8. Great post! Personally, I have not used a kiosk to order food in a restaurant, but I have used a tablet at Chilli’s. I agree that it is better in theory than in practice. It was nice to be able to look at the menu and order at our own pace, but it took out the customer service interaction from the server to us.

    On the other hand, at LensCrafters, they use tablets to help customers look at frames and to take photos of them so they can put on their glasses and actually see what they look like with the new frames on instead of squinting in the mirror. I think this is a great use of a tablet and it definitely shows in customer satisfaction.

    I do not think that kiosks will thrive for those picky eaters. I think it is best for those customers who want something quick and easy. It becomes too complicated when you’re putting in a complex order; it is just easier, in my opinion, to tell the cashier. Just like self-checkouts, when you have lots of groceries, it’s easiest to go through a checkout lane than the self-checkout.

  9. Like others have mentioned, I believe the kiosks are better in theory than in practice. There’s a certain novelty aspect that can spark interest in customers, such as the Coca-Cola Freestyle soda machines as another commenter mentioned earlier. However, I don’t see much practicality when it comes to ordering at McDonald’s, because from what I’ve experienced, order time is already minimal. I also don’t believe a large percentage of order mistakes occur due to miscommunication between the register and kitchen, but the kitchen itself, since they’re expected to pump out orders in mass quantities at a high pace. It’ll be interesting to see just how effective these kiosks are and whether or not they’ll choose to install them in most locations.

  10. I hear what you are saying that kiosks can be faulty in some instances but in my experience, kiosks have actually led to greater efficiency. There is one quick service restaurant that I specifically have frequented where these systems have been implemented, that is Sheetz. In the instance of Sheetz, this east coast convenience store chain has completely eliminated the human ordering system. All customers walk up to the station and order their made-to-order food and the order is sent directly to the people who make food. I think that while these machines may be buggy at times, for some quick service restaurants they lead to decreased time between ordering and receiving your food and a more concise way to offer the company’s customers a more customizable product.

  11. Interesting post! I’ve never had to order from a kiosk before but it’d be interesting to see if they did come to the US. I feel like it would have a similar fallout as the self check outs at grocery stores. Most people don’t like the idea of doing things themselves, maybe because they don’t trust technology enough to believe that the kiosk will get the order all the way to end. I think another big reason why kiosks wouldn’t work so well would be because of a language limitation. Most likely it would be in English but the US is filled with various languages. I guess if they have a starting screen like ATM’s where the first thing you choose is language then that would eliminate that problem.

  12. I think for fast food chains like McDonalds, this could be a great time saving idea. However, I went to Chili’s and they had a screen where you could order and I did not like that. I felt like I was paying for and planning on going to a sit down restaurant where they served me and, while they still did, it just felt like we weren’t getting the full service which made me not want to give a tip. I think this is good for fast food chains but not sit down restaurants.

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