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Fast-food restaurants' express kiosks have been popular around the world, but McDonald's and other major chains have so far been reluctant to introduce them in the United States, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune .
Proponents say many customers prefer to take control of their order, rather than idling in line. They can order fries by just touching a picture of them on the screens of the machines developed by Miami-based Boink Systems Inc., Radiant Systems Inc. of Atlanta and RoboServer Systems Corp. of Las Vegas.
But while major restaurant chains such as McDonald's Corp., Taco Bell, Burger King and Dairy Queen have considered the idea, none has ordered a roll-out of the technology.
"The country is not quite ready for self-serve," said Devin Green, chief executive of ESP Systems LLC, which is deploying a system for alerting a restaurant's staff that a patron needs service. "This is a people business. People go to a restaurant to be served."
Bill Whitman, a spokesman for Oak Brook-based McDonald's, told the newspaper that self-serve isn't ready yet for prime time, at least at the Golden Arches.
"The opportunity that we see with kiosks is largely with convenience with customers in the play area. Beyond that, it is not a major priority in the U.S.," he said, saying the world's largest restaurant chain, with nearly 32,000 stores, has ended its tests of the ordering system at restaurants in the Denver area and in a restaurant in St. Charles.
A spokeswoman for Radiant, which sells a free-standing and table-side kiosk, said the company believes a system it sells that can be used by customers to see a display of what they ordered may serve as a bridge to the self-serve machines.
"Our machine is a step in between that gives the customer the ability to pay if they want," said Leslie Miller a spokeswoman for the company, saying it is used more to confirm orders and take payments while freeing the cashier for other work. "It will get the customer comfortable with self-service."