The use of self-service kiosks at fast food restaurants isn’t exactly new. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, McDonald’s began trying out the technology in 2003, and in the years since, other brands such as Panera and Taco Bell have followed suit. But the integration of kiosks became an undeniable trend during the coronavirus pandemic, when the onset of indoor dining bans motivated fast food chains to focus on digital ordering, drive-thru service, and automation features like kiosks.
Although the days of pandemic-mandated dining room bans may be over, consumers can expect the use of kiosks at fast food chains to continue. In fact, they’re likely to be more widespread than ever, given how popular they’ve become among certain age groups.
Millennials love kiosks, it seems, and so do Gen Z consumers. As far back as 2016, Business Insider suggested that the preference of these younger consumers to avoid human interactions imperiled fast food workers’ jobs, and in fact, was helping to drive automation efforts in the restaurant industry.
In 2016, there wasn’t a lot of data to back up this assertion, although Business Insider observed that 33% of fast food consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 preferred drive-thru service because there was less human interaction. The results of a recently published survey, however, show very clearly how much age influences one’s preference for kiosks over actual restaurant interactions.
A new study of close to 800 restaurant consumers showed an undeniable preference by those in the millennial and Gen Z age groups for ordering via kiosks rather than through an interaction with a restaurant employee. Although only 41% of respondents in the survey group as a whole would pick kiosks over people, 67% of Gen Z consumers favored the automation option. A majority of millennials (58%) agreed, placing the two younger age groups far in advance of the 37% of Gen X members, and 17% of baby boomers who also expressed a preference for kiosks.