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In the Dystopian Future, Fast-Food Chains Will Track Your License Plate Number

Eater logo Eater 7/12/2019 Tim Forster
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Plus, Starbucks employees probably hate the tie dye Frappuccino, and more news to start your day

Would you like surveillance with that?

Lots of Americans think that the government is spying on them, but in the dystopian future, it’s probably just as likely to be a McDonald’s that’s keeping track of your every move. Multiple fast food chains are reportedly trialling license plate recognition systems for their drive-thrus. It looks like the main aim is to either speed up service, or juice more money out of customers: If a camera at, say, a Starbucks recognizes a repeat customer, it might show a custom menu centering around that person’s tastes, or it might be able to store that person’s payment details. It’s not yet known which companies are planning to use the technology, but Starbucks already uses it in South Korea, and McDonald’s recently purchased an AI startup, so, they’re into that kind of thing.

It’s most likely that customers would have to opt-in to having their license plates scanned ( on a restaurant’s app, perhaps) — but as the Financial Times notes, what happens to the scanned images of people who don’t want any part of the program? Nobody really knows yet — even though some U.S. and Canadian chains are already trialling the software.

And in other news...

  • The latest feel-bad viral video features two Florida women telling a Burger King manager to “go back to Mexico” because he spoke Spanish to an employee. Happy ending: the women got kicked out. [NBC]
  • Starbucks staffers probably hate making gimmicky, complicated drinks like the new tie dye Frappuccino. According to one former barista: “They’re in for a disaster. A sticky, messy, customer-filled, busy disaster.” [NBC Chicago]
  • Nearly 50,000 grocery store employees across multiple chains in southern California could go on strike. Staff at Vons and Ralph’s (among others) are asking for higher wages and better health coverage, with even some managers saying they aren’t paid enough to support their families. [KCRW]
  • Here’s a look at how some New Orleans restaurants are preparing for impending tropical storm Barry, which threatens to flood parts of the city. [NOLA.com]
  • A New York woman says that a Taco Bell joint left a doorknob in her nachos. So, readers: Would you rather find a doorknob or a stray hair in your food? [Hudson Valley Post]
  • Surprise! Legal weed is helping the snack industry sell more stuff to people. [Fast Company]
  • The French energy minister is getting the modern-day Marie Antoinette treatment, with citizens angry at the fact he spent a bunch of government money on fancy lobster dinners. (Well, OK, he had to pay back the meal and face a few calls for resignation instead of face the guillotine). [Reuters]
  • Breathe easy, folks: the Taco Bell tortilla shortage is officially over. [NRN]

All AM Intel Coverage [E]

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