McDonald's CEO says the chain won't replace workers with robots — no matter what former execs say

McDonald's isn't ready to swap workers for robots just yet.

According to McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, the fast-food chain won't replace workers with machines — even if restaurant operators have to pay the $15 hourly wage that protesters are demanding. 

"I don't see it being a risk to job elimination," Easterbrook said on Thursday at McDonald's annual meeting when asked if rising labor costs would force the chain to cut jobs, replacing workers with kiosks and "automatic pancake machines." 

Instead, Easterbrook said, the company would look to automating food preparation, allowing more employees to work directly with guests and boosting customer service. 

"Ultimately we're in the service business, and we're competing with other opportunities for people to eat and drink out," says Easterbrook. "Frankly, we will always have an important human element."

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