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The Hustle Wed, Nov 30

McDonald’s: now hiring touchscreens

When Steve Easterbrook took over as CEO of McDonald’s in March of 2015, the fast good giant wasn’t doing so hot.

Fast-casual joints like Shake Shack and pre-E.coli Chipotle were stealing their customers, global sales were down, and an increasingly health-conscious society was forcing Mickey D’s to reinvent itself.

Easterbrook to the rescue!

Since then, McDonald’s launched all-day breakfast, introduced fancier ingredients, put more salads and wraps on the menu, and removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets.

That strategy seems to be working, as revenue and profits are on the upswing (both topped forecasts last quarter).

Well done, Easterbrook. You righted the ship and put some wind behind the golden arches’ sails. Got anything else up your sleeve, bud?

“Of course I do, bud. Touchscreens and table service.” – Steve

McDonald’s recently announced that it will roll out self-service kiosks and table service to all of its 14,000 American restaurants.

How’s it gonna work?

After placing your order on a touch screen Wawa-style (Philly shout out), you’ll get a “digital location device” and can take your seat. After all, browsing Facebook and Instagram is much more comfortable sitting down.

Then, once your order is ready, the device will guide a server right to your table to deliver your Big Mac (no pickles) and Dr. Pepper.

McDonald’s traditionalists, don’t fret! You can still order food the old-fashioned way at the counter.

Self-kiosk-phobics (people who are afraid of self-kiosks) shouldn’t worry, either, as you’ll be able to order right from your phone soon, too.

But what about all the workers who are about to be let go?

This new system is designed to improve the customer experience, not cut costs; so thankfully, employees won’t be fired, they’ll just be given slightly different jobs.

As Easterbrook puts it, “We’re not cutting crew; we’re redeploying them.”

McDonald’s’ franchises will be responsible for paying between $28k (lower sales volume stores) and $56k (the always packed ones) for the upgrades.

Great investment if this ends up increasing sales, not so great investment if sales remain stagnant. But that’s pretty obvious.


The world’s largest atom smasher is getting a facelift

The University of Manchester and Lancaster University have just launched an $8m dollar project to upgrade the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland so it can smash more atoms than ever before.

The project aims to increase the LHC’s luminosity (number of particle collisions that can happen per minute) to give scientists more chances to study rare phenomenon like the Higgs Boson.

No, Higgs Boson isn’t the name of a college linebacker, it’s a “God particle” thought to be the origin of the big bang and the universe in general.  

Just figuring out how the universe was created… NBD

That’s what CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and the LHC have been up to for the past 6 years, while the rest of us played Farmville.

This $10B giant steel donut (nearly 17 miles around) is actually the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, using magnets to shoot particles at one another close to the speed of light.

By watching these collisions, scientists hope to isolate the particles that make up our universe according to the laws of physics developed by people like Einstein and Peter Higgs (pre-Boson).

Will the LHC destroy the world?

Probably not. There’s a tiiiiny chance it will create a black hole and suck this email and everything you’ve ever loved into oblivion… but such is the price of progress.

And just in case you ever want to double check that this hasn’t happened already, you can visit this website. Just to be sure.


The hidden cost of “free data”

Last year, net neutrality won out in the US and there was much rejoicing (although we recently covered why it may be back on the chopping block).  

However, these regulations have a hidden loophole that, on the surface, sounds amazing: Mobile providers (most recently AT&T) can give customers unlimited streaming data from partnering channels like HBO Go, Hulu, or Spotify, for free.

You mean we don’t have to burn our entire Hoobastank discography onto CDs to avoid overages on our next road trip? Net neutrality, you’ve done it again.

Not so fast…

This practice, called “zero-rating,” has some serious implications beyond our monthly phone bills.

In fact, some worry that the ability for mobile companies to highly incentivize consumption of approved media sources will ruin the democracy of the internet.

Harvard law professor and net neutrality advocate Susan Crawford has been warning against zero-rating since 2015, saying it creates a “synthetic online experience” that isn’t quite the full internet, but is treated as “good enough” for people who can’t afford a non-curated experience.

And on top of all that…

Hulu could start holding us hostage

Imagine launching a YouTube competitor in a market where customers have to pay data charges for your service, while the incumbent is free?

It’s a pretty tough sell. Some might even say, anti-competitive.

And this situation isn’t completely hypothetical. It turns out that, as of August, Time Warner is a part owner of Hulu (they also own HBO). Makes you think the merger in the works between Time Warner and AT&T is more than just coincidence.

Ultimately, these two companies joining forces and using zero-rating to offer free unlimited streaming on mobile could be exactly what Hulu needs to strongarm Netflix out of the market once and for all.

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