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    McDonald's Testing Self-Serve Kiosks

    Fast-food giant hoping to increase speed, accuracy in test markets.

    RALEIGH, N.C. -- Buoyed by the success many convenience store companies have had with self-service kiosks, fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. yesterday began testing kiosks that allow customers to place orders by touching food and drink icons on a computer screen instead of interacting with a clerk.

    The company is optimistic about the program's success because of the new generation of consumers that have grown up accustomed to banking at ATMs and paying for groceries with a machine and debit cards instead of dealing with store associates.

    A recorded voice from the machine prompts them as they make their choices.

    Customers pay at the kiosk instead of the register by putting a $1, $5, $10 or $20 bill into the machine. It prints a receipt that the customer takes to a designated register to get change and pick up the order.

    McDonald's has installed the kiosks at six restaurants in the Raleigh, N.C., area as part of a two-city test of automated ordering, said Darnell Crews, McDonald's field-operations manager for Eastern North Carolina. The other market where the chain is testing the kiosks is Denver, where the machines take debit cards and give change, the Associated Press reported.

    While convenience store chains and many gas stations have long offered their own version of automated self-service, other retail channels are eyeing automation for its potential to cut labor costs while delivering speed and convenience for customers.

    McDonald's theory in testing the machines is not only that they will prove more convenient, but that some people would rather deal with them than with a clerk, Crews said.

    It's no small issue for McDonald's, which trails its competition in speed and accuracy of handling orders, industry and internal surveys show, the report said.

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