I'm currently at a McDonald's in Norway (so, not a country where labour is dirt cheap, even for relatively unqualified jobs), and I'm struck by how manual every process is, from cooking the meat to assembling burgers to serving. The fries-making process is particularly baffling. It goes like this:
- An employee pours frozen fries in a basket and dunks it in oil
- After a while, an alarm rings and an employee has to come to manually raise the basket from the oil
- An employee put the fries in a bin and salt them with a handheld salt shaker
- The employee shovels the fries into little bags that are brought to the trays
It seems like it would be trivial to automate away the second step here (for example by having the basket rise by itself after a set time), and not that hard to have the rest done by a machine either.
Other industries employing unqualified labour, like groceries stores, have spent considerably more money and effort into automating their checkout lines, for example. Why hasn't the fast food industry followed suit?