If you are looking to experience the most gloriously satisfying robot regime before it officially takes over, commit your morning for an excursion to your nearest McDonald’s restaurant and take a good hard look at the environment beyond the burgers, shakes and eleven-thousand varieties of frozen Fanta™. One morning having woken at 3am with night terrors, I packed up my laptop and headed to the local Maccas to grab a coffee and get some work done. About 7.30am I left Maccas for the office.

Over the next few weeks, I found myself at Maccas in the morning more and more often, mainly because I had early meetings across town and rather than battling traffic during prime time, I figured it made more sense to get over there a few hours early and be McProductive.
I feel compelled to point out that I have not eaten a McDonald’s product in about 10 years for various reasons. The coffee though is satisfactory.
Having come to peace with the concept that I had become one of those strange-hours Maccas laptop weirdos, I became more in tune with my surroundings and started to see it for what it truly is – a glorious oasis of humanbeingless intoxication.

To commence the experience I walk through the automatic door, touch a screen, sit down, and a human brings my order to me before I have unpacked. She has a go at smiling and it looks quite real. My seating station is clean, debris free and smells reasonable. The table is fixed solid to the ground, my guess to prevent the hooliganism that is moving tables together to create unmanageably sized groups.

I connect my laptop to the Maccas Wi-Fi, plug my device into the wall for charging and get started.

I hear a lot of “beeping” from the production area. I buy a bottle of water and notice the systems in the back; they are doing the managing – the humans are only there to respond appropriately to each beep. There is a certain pitch of beep which seems to antagonise the humans. Something is off schedule and the machines are displeased. The humans’ state of urgency is heightened. The issue is arrested and the irritation of the machines is eased.

A man and a small child enter. The small child starts to unravel. That is until she finds the neatly kept creative space filled with crayons, colouring templates, and puzzles. They are in excellent condition, not like the worn-out GP-style waiting room playthings. The young one’s at peace now with her colouring challenge and dad is looking tired but calm over a coffee and piece of thick banana bread. Of the three newspapers available to him, he chooses the local one. They make a mess and leave. A uniformed human has their space tidied in a jiffy like they were never there.

I duck into the restroom quickly to splash some water on my face. It’s nicer in here than my own bathroom. When I leave the restroom a uniformed human heads in. I am not sure if there were questions being asked of my activities in the bathroom or if it is standard practice, but the human tidied up even though I didn’t actually do anything besides run a tap for a second.
Coming on to three hours later I have seen people come and go, young, old, childless and child loaded. I have seen dine-in and take away orders and a number of drive-bys, all directed by beeps, sirens, and monitors.

It’s about 7.30 and I’m ready to leave. I unplug, pack up and walk out offering a smile and wave to the humans. One is about to acknowledge me but an unusual beep hijacks her response and she must attend to something more pressing.

I have been there for three hours and seen 150 people move through the venue to take advantage of every facility and offering. When the 151st arrives, they may as well be the first. Everything is clean, neat, and ordered as per the machines’ directions. They will get exactly what they want, when they want it and won’t need to make eye contact with anyone should they so choose.

This is not the place for engagement, community, or feeling. But if you were looking for the prototype start-to-end robotic experience, the golden arches are simply divine.

Opportunity

The opportunity for small businesses starts now (well, ages ago really). As the robots take over and become less humanised, the opportunity for small businesses is to create a memorable experience. Not some in-your-face shout-fest joyous celebration of excitement, but a memorable human being experience – manners, care, respect, engagement and support, underpinned by good work. It’s rare now but it will be rarer when the robots take control. If you haven’t started already, boy-o-boy, you’d better get on it because the genuine human experience is going to become the secret weapon for small businesses very soon, if not already.