Photo: Jeepers Media
In a world where several fast food companies are looking to technological advancements to cut costs and take over jobs in the workplace, Taco Bell is going against the status quo.
The fast food giant has declared their staunch opposition to ever using automation and technology to replace workers in their restaurants.
This comes in stark contrast to rival fast food companies that are looking to replace jobs with automation. McDonald’s recently unveiled kiosks that would replace jobs at the front of restaurants nationwide, and Wendy’s aims to do the same in 1,000 of its restaurants to reduce labor costs by 5%.
Taco Bell spokesperson Matt Prince states that the basis for this unique modern view came from what the chain learned when they tested out their “restaurant of the future” twenty-five years ago, which included an impressive automatic taco robot that produced 900 tacos per hour.
Taco Bell’s “Automatic Taco Machine,” developed in the 1990s and no longer in use. (GIF courtesy of Taco Bell)
“We tried it, and learned that you can’t get away from the human element that restaurants have.”
Taco Bell’s CEO, Brian Niccol, reiterated that position while speaking on a panel during Edelman’s Trust Barometer event.
“The caveat on technology is that tech is only as good as the experience that a team member creates. It’s an enabler for managers and team members to create a better experience.
If tech brings people together, good things happen. If it separates people, bad things happen…. A team that communicates face to face is much stronger, and technology brings teams together.”
Taco Bell has learned its lesson from past experiences, and values the team member experience over production capability. Prince told Foodbeast that if Taco Bell decides to implement technology, it will not be to replace employees, but to “enhance the team member experience” by replacing tasks and responsibilities so that employees can focus on key aspects like food quality, food safety, and the cleanliness of the dining room.
“As a business that’s fueled by the energy and passion of people serving people, our team members are our front line and biggest brand ambassadors,” says Frank Tucker, Taco Bell’s Chief People Officer.
So will Taco Bell go high-tech? Yes, but not as high-tech as other fast food chains. While other chains may entirely be run by robots one day, Taco Bell doesn’t want to lose the human element of their restaurant, as they’ve already learned the consequences of doing so in their own tests.
As Prince puts it:
“People who work in the restaurants matter.”