Pat McDonagh on automating the takeaway‘People do order that extra bit, an extra 20% on average when they’re ordering online.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Could it be possible that the next time you order a snack box, it will be served to you by a robot? Supermac’s founder Pat McDonagh says he plans to introduce more automation in branches across the country. He joined Sean O’Rourke to tell him what this might mean for workers and the future of the industry.

The need for greater automation came about because of a shortage of workers, Pat told Sean. He says that because the unemployment rate is going down, he is finding it hard to retain staff.

“There’s a huge scarcity of workers in the catering industry, in the service industry and generally in construction. So, people are going to have to look at different ways.”

He spoke about some of the demonstrations he has seen in trade shows.

“There was a robot who was cooking the fries and you just press number 1 if you want one portion, number 3 if you wanted three portions, etc. So, for that kind of kitchen work, then obviously that’s the way it’s going to go.”

Things might get a little more extreme, though. Pat told Sean about more elaborate setups he has seen at trade shows, scenarios where only one person is required at each restaurant location and the food is cooked by robots.

Pat McDonagh, Supermacs

“It’s delivered by the robot as well, which has a little flag up from the little car that drives around and delivers it and you have a code number. Then when you get to the house to open it and take out your food.”

One interesting thing Pat has found during his research is that people tend to order more online than if they are dealing with a person face to face.

“That’s proven from experience because when you’re looking at a screen and you see the food in front of you and there’s no pressure on you to order – because sometimes at the counter, you feel a little bit under pressure because there’s maybe more in the queue, etc. – so, you’re doing it in your own time. So, people do order that extra bit. An extra 20% on average when they’re ordering online.

Sean asked if delegating jobs to machines will mean a reduction in staff numbers? Pat says that this will not be the case.

“It won’t cost jobs whatsoever. What it’ll do is, in back of kitchen areas, it’ll help to…reduce labour in that area…you don’t reduce your staff, you just relocate them to a different area and provide a better service.

Listen back to the whole interview on Today with Sean O’Rourke here.


Main photograph: A robot waitress, which is built and developed by restaurant’s owner’s electrical engineer son Osama Aziz, services meal at a local fast food restaurant in Multan, Pakistan on July 08, 2017. (Photo by Usman Khan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

© The Listener 2018

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