KFC in Australia tests fast-food model with fewer humans

Photo: aphotostory (iStock)

It was only a matter of time. With fast food chains looking to speed up the drive-thru process, and even customize the experience for individual drivers, the inevitable streamlining of fast food will now get rid of one of the biggest barriers to speedy service: the dine-in portion of the restaurant.

In Australia, where KFC has already stumped for a Michelin star, the fried chicken chain will push to innovate through a drive-thru-only location in Newcastle, New South Wales. Due to open later this year, The Sydney Morning Herald notes that the “pilot project” will be primarily set up for the benefit of digital orders. While there will still be lanes for the “traditional” practice of driving up to order from a speaker and menu, others will prioritize ordering and paying “... with the KFC smartphone app or website before arriving at the site. Customers will need to enter a four-digit code—generated by the smartphone app—on a touchscreen receiver, which will ‘send their order to the kitchen where it is freshly prepared, ready for collection.’”

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Once open, it’ll be the first such KFC location in the world. (KFC is flirting with automated food prep in China as well.) The Australian outpost will likely function as a test run for a sea change in how fast food works around the world. After all, if this proves successful, we’re certain that KFC won’t be the only fast-food company interested in further whittling down the expensive human element of running a restaurant. Starbucks already has many drive-thru-only locations. There’s little doubt the Australian KFC will have certain efficiencies, but we also have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen to fast food restaurants as a whole if this actually works.

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