The Fast Food Revolution

January 29, 2023

McDonald’s has a new Texas restaurant with no tables or seats or bathrooms for customers and a conveyor belt that routes food to drivers who order ahead. Chipotle also offers no place for customers to sit inside an Ohio restaurant that only takes digital orders. Taco Bell is evaluating a new design that features 4 drive-through lanes, double the typical two. Starbucks,  which long described itself as a “third place” for customers to gather after home and work, plans to add 400 U.S. stores with only delivery or pickup service in the next 3 years.

Taco Bell is testing a 4-lane drive through in Minnesota

America’s biggest restaurant companies made a bet during the pandemic that you would rather eat the food cooked on their premises someplace else. Now they are gambling you will want to do so for years to come. The strategy from these giant chains is to orient their operations around drive-throughs and online ordering while testing new restaurant concepts that only serve food to go, reports The Wall Street Journal (Jan.28-29, 2023). They say these designs will make them more profitable and efficient since restaurants that bring fewer customers inside cost less to build, maintain and staff.

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3-D Printing and the Future of Global Manufacturing

January 14, 2023

Cadillac Celestiq’s new “ultra-luxury” $300,000+ vehicle has more
than 100 3-D printed parts

Now that much of the hype around 3-D printing has died down—no more of that 2010s-era talk about a Star Trek-style replicator in every home—a funny thing is happening to this technology. It’s becoming a widely used, and in some respects quietly revolutionary, update to the way that people manufacture and process things we rely on every day—from cars to industrial machinery to food. “What’s more, the way this technology is being used could have implications for the shape of global supply chains to come,” writes The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 14-15, 2023).

3-D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing,” generally works by adding tiny layers of material—usually powdered metal or plastic—one at a time to form an item, and fusing them with binding agents, lasers or other methods. Thus, parts are “grown” instead of forged, cast, molded, or machined as in traditional manufacturing. Just a decade ago, this kind of manufacturing was, with rare exceptions, suitable only for creating prototypes. What’s different now is that newer technology lets these systems print objects strong enough to be used in finished products—and relatively quickly.

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