Welcome, the kiosk will take your order

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Turtles are coming. The Turtles iced drink, shown, or hot macchiato, will be available starting April 1 for a limited time at McDonald’s restaurants.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Jordan Nakamura, a Kamehameha Schools student home for spring break, waits for his order to be called Tuesday afternoon at the recently renovated McDonald’s restaurant in Lihue.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Alexa Greathouse explains to Sara Hansmann how the new ordering system works Tuesday afternoon at the recently renovated McDonald’s restaurant in Lihue.

When the Lihue McDonald’s finally opened the doors following a monthlong renovation, people gave thumbs up to the new decor. More relaxing, more inviting, more space between tables and chairs. Just seemed bigger, brighter, better. A more modern look, for use. A good place to sit and talk story. The cushioned seats are nice and there’s more separation between the dining area and the front counter. A good investment for owner, Darlene Chung (who was often there, chatting with guests), and her crew.

It was nice to have McDonald’s back after the time off during the construction. Their $1 deals on cheeseburgers, breakfast burritos, and McChicken sandwiches were missed.

But the items that got the most attention had nothing to do with the quality of food. It has nothing to do with furniture or design. What seemed to matter to most were the kiosks. They offer the opportunity to order your food without speaking to a human. That’s the way of the world these days. And it is easier — if you can figure it out.

Some of the older folks seemed to shy away from the touch screens. They prefer the old-fashioned way of ordering food in a fast-food restaurant and walking up to the counter, talking to a clerk, looking at the menu options and being handed a receipt by a human hand.

And they still can do that. Customers are free to stand in the line, just like the old days, wait patiently for your turn while the parents in front of you debate with their 4-year-old if he wants a Happy Meal and what toy is inside these days and could he substitute for another toy.

Many, though, went for the kiosks. It takes just a minute to touch your way through the process. Give Darlene credit, she saw that some would be baffled, and had staff standing nearby waiting to help, offering step-by-step guidance. Pay with a credit card and the machine spits out your receipt. As easy as it gets.

I’m not sure if you get your food any faster ordering by kiosk or by human. The kiosk way does seem to take longer than when you could talk to a person. People expect their meals within minutes and for the most part, that still happens. The other day, during a busy lunch hour, it took about 15, which isn’t fast enough for most folks, especially if you’re a visitor in a hurry to get the North Shore and be trapped by another landslide or have the Hanalei Bridge close.

The best part about the kiosk may not be the convenience of it. It’s that it allows you to order what you like without feeling guilty. In these days when we are told to eat healthy, locally grown, organic, vegetables, steer clear of sugar and fats, avoid the processed stuff and drink water, some of us feel like we’re committing a crime when we order burgers and fries and a large Coke. That is not the stuff of Olympic champions. But it is the stuff of people who want to eat now, love burgers and fries and don’t want to spend $9 for half a turkey sandwich at the health food store.

With the new kiosks, we can walk right in, tap the screen and we’re done. If we ordered to go, no one has a clue what’s in that brown bag. We can grab and go, kind of a guilty pleasure. It’s addictive in a way. They’ve made it easy for us — too easy — to order those delicious Big Macs and Quarter Pounders which have about a billion calories and God knows what else is in there, but man, they’re good.

These kiosks are the way of the future. We know this. They make life easier. They give us what we want, and what we want is our food delivered to our table as fast as possible. If you want, you can use an ap on your phone.

Yet, don’t give up on the human contact when ordering at McDonald’s. They’re a friendly staff over there. They smile and talk and appreciate your business. You can even ask them a question about the food you’re ordering.

Try that with a touch screen kiosk. Then again, maybe it will answer.

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