Wendy’s Starts Installation on Self-Checkout Kiosks

March 3, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

If you enjoyed going to Wendy’s locations for the human contact, that era may be coming to a close. Wendy’s recent noted plans to bring out 1,000 self-ordering kiosks to locations throughout the United States by the end of 2017. Though the reasons for the move make sense on the surface, there are darker implications here that need to be addressed.

The current reports say Wendy’s is bringing in the kiosks as a means to both bring younger customers back to the chain and to help reduce the time it takes to move through a line at peak hours. David Trimm, the company’s chief information officer, also noted that such moves would also help save on labor costs, sufficiently so that the company expects to see return on the investment in under two years.

Some Wendy’s locations—particularly those in central Ohio—already have such systems in place, as part of some earlier testing that was apparently sufficiently successful to make further rollouts possible. While this isn’t the end of order at the counter, at least not in the short term, more than a few think that this is the beginning of the end.

While certainly, Wendy’s will save money from this effort, it’s easy to wonder if Wendy’s is shooting itself in the foot. It wants to appeal to millennials with this move, but how many millennials are currently working at Wendy’s? Sure, more Generation Z occupants are likely engaged therein, but there are plenty of younger millennials who have probably found employment with Wendy’s.

What’s going to happen to this customer segment if it’s no longer gainfully employed? Plus, what’s going to happen to the rest of the market? Burger King, McDonalds, and the rest can scarcely not answer this and leave Wendy’s with one big edge in the field, so we may well be closing in rather fast on a day where people don’t work in fast food any more.

That’s a development that could do a lot of damage economically, and while the cost savings are certainly there, it’s worth a pause to ask: are cost savings today worth the potential loss of an entire market tomorrow?