McDonald's quietly revealed its stunning future -- and some customers will like it

Think washing machines. Think dishwashers. Think IT equipment. This isn't your old McDonald's.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Doesn't it look pretty?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Robots are the answer.

That'll surely be the mantra for so many businesses in 2022.

It's hard to hire employees, especially when they want to be paid more than a tiny fraction of what the bosses make.

It's inevitable, then, that fast-food emporiums such as McDonald's and Chick-fil-A are burrowing deeply into automating their services -- and their customer service.

At the end of last year, however, McDonald's quietly revealed a more progressive direction for its future. It's not one that uses technology to eliminate humans. Instead, it seeks to save them via IT equipment, washing machines, and dishwashers.

Old ones.

In the relatively quiet town of Market Drayton, England, McDonald's opened what it calls "the UK's first net zero carbon restaurant!"

Perhaps you don't think this carbon obsession is merited. Perhaps you think climate change talk is all political hooey. Perhaps you think the Earth always rights itself, one way or another.

McDonald's doesn't seem to agree with you. It actually wants all of its restaurants to achieve net zero emissions. (Next stop, all its cows.)

The Market Drayton McDonald's will have wind turbines and solar panels, of course. (What do you mean England is cloudy?)

The designers, however, have considered what to do with all the old washing machines, dishwashers, and IT equipment that have seen better working days.

They're using them to create the building's cladding, which seems remarkably inventive and gives a reason for the people of Market Drayton to visit their local McDonald's and whisper: "At last. The office printer that never worked finally has a use."

The whole thing sounds like a museum of ingenuity. Drive-thru lanes made from recycled tires, for example. Here's something you may not know about recycled tires: "This material produces less carbon-dioxide and allows more water to be absorbed, reducing the amount of rainwater going down the drain."

McDonald's has even considered the curbs. They're made from recycled plastic bottles; 182 of them, apparently. In the company's scientific analysis, the result is "reducing carbon emissions by 25kg per [curb] compared to concrete [curbs]. By using over 1,000 of these at Market Drayton, McDonald's has diverted over 200,000 plastic bottles from landfills."

Oh, and the insulation is made from sheep's wool that would have gone to a landfill as well.

I'm not going to suggest that going to McDonald's will suddenly be good for you. Even its plant burgers have a ton of calories that may not be conducive to bracing health.

I can imagine, though, that anyone feeling even slightly guilty about eating fatty, high-calorie, sugar-laden food might feel a touch better that the fatty, high-calorie, sugar-laden food provider is doing something positive.

And here's another heartening thought. Robots could have never designed this McDonald's.

Could they?

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