The kiosks don’t help the significant portion of McDonald’s customers who don’t have debit or credit cards, which is about 8.4 million of U.S. households.
The kiosks are in about 9,000 McDonald’s locations around the country, and they’ve been troublesome for franchise owners because they don’t accept cash. The kiosks can cost up to $750,000 in renovations, and now many owners may have to retrofit the machines for cash acceptability.
“As part of McDonald’s efforts to identify the best experience for customers and employees, we are always testing new approaches to meet customer demand,” McDonald’s said, adding that cash-accepting kiosks only exist in a “small handful of U.S. restaurants.”
One of the main selling points of the touch screens was that customers could order and pay for their meals, and be able to skip the general line. However, even if a customer uses the kiosk, and they don’t have a cashless means to pay, they still have to wait in line.
“Potentially the franchisee could have to pay,” said John Gordon, principal at restaurant adviser Pacific Management Consulting Group. He said the kiosks were a “mistake” and that McDonald’s “should have thought about that.”
Gordon said 30 percent of fast food customers only use cash, and 40 to 60 percent only use cash worldwide.
“Lower income people just don’t have access to credit cards; they’re paying with a lot of things in cash,” Gordon said. “Why should they not have the same access to personalization, or to get in and out quickly if there’s a line?”
Many other cashless restaurants have been criticized for discriminating against low-income customers, and some cities, like Philadelphia and San Francisco, have rules against no-cash policies.