2.3.17

THE PRODUCTIVITY PUZZLE.

One of the Reuther brothers, of United Auto Workers fame, once remarked to an automobile company executive that the precise engine-boring machines didn't buy cars.  The tension between precision manufacturing and providing gainful employment for potential customers goes on, most recently with the introduction of ordering kiosks at Wendy's hamburger stands.
Wendy's has figured out how to eliminate 31 hours of labor per week from its restaurants and is now working to use technology, such as kiosks, to increase efficiency.

Kiosks could ease lines and boost kitchen output during peak lunch and dinner times, Tristano said.

The other benefit is higher order accuracy. And as Bob Welcher, president of Restaurant Consultants Inc., said of kiosks last year: "They always are courteous. They always show up for work on time."

Kiosks are just the first step in changes that customers will see in restaurants. [Wendy's chief information officer David] Trimm and [Technomic vice president Darren] Tristano said that mobile ordering and payment, via smartphones, eventually will overtake kiosks and cash registers. One reason: they provide data. Wendy's wants to know more about its customers to better tailor offers and understand trends.
I wonder what it says about young people today that they're more receptive to using information technologies to place food orders, given that young people are often the order-takers, implicitly being called out for inaccuracy, discourtesy, and lateness in the excerpt.  Or perhaps we're seeing this stratification of the population into the Informed Rich, as opposed to the Low Information Poor.  (But since when is a Wendy's a hangout for the rich?)

The excerpt also points out the ubiquity of the surveillance state.  Wendy's might want to know who is checking in at which stand and they can correlate the check-ins with the food purchases, and send along a survey that will "take only five minutes" to complete, and then annoy people further with a "can you explain why you rated your slider a five?"  (And that's where the leisure time goes, dear reader, participating in all those online surveys and promotions.)  But that's just a matter of course, and nobody is worried that such open-source intelligence is of value to play-hunters on reality television, let alone to terrorists.

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