More And More Fast Food Restaurants Want To Replace Workers With Robots

Diply 8 May 2018

Fast food workers are an integral part of the American job landscape. Whether it's the teenager who takes your Big Mac order or the manager who gives you your first summer job, this level of employment has gone mostly unchanged for decades.

Now, though, big changes are looming, in the form of automation.

Most fast food workers aren't highly paid.

Wikimedia Commons | Jeremy Keith

This is fairly excusable, as the positions are generally seen as entry level. But news out of multiple fast food outlets suggests that even these low-paying positions cost more than the restaurants are willing to pay.

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Jack in the Box is leading the charge.

Wikimedia Commons | Coolcaesar

CEO Leonard Comma, who makes nearly $5 million a year, announced at a conference that his restaurant was looking to replace some minimum-wage workers with no-wage automated kiosks. He said rising labor costs are the culprit.

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Red Robin is cutting jobs, too.

Wikimedia Commons | Jwinters

Recent minimum wage increases were too much for Red Robin (which pulled in $1.38 billion in revenue last year) to bear. The fast casual burger chain says it'll save about $8 million a year by firing its busboys and asking other workers to pick up the slack.

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Self-serve kiosks are an increasingly popular option.

TripAdvisor | TripAdvisor

Wendy's has been on a kiosk spree lately, installing them at about 1,000 of its restaurants across the United States. CIO David Trimm says it'll cut costs, and the chain should see a return on its kiosk investment in under two years.

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We've already seen these kiosks at many restaurants.

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McDonald's has been pushing kiosks, where customers can order and pay for their meal without talking to a human being, for several years.

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McDonald's says it isn't trying to replace workers, though.

Wikimedia Commons | René Sinn

The burger giant says the kiosks won't lead to mass layoffs, and that workers made redundant by the machines will take on other responsibilities.

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Some chains have gone all-in.

Wikimedia Commons | oinonio

You may not have heard of Eatsa, but the Bay Area chain only has real employees behind the scenes, making meals. Ordering is done entirely through automated kiosks.

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Another smaller chain is also embracing automation.

Wikimedia Commons | Ahardeefortm

CaliBurger not only has kiosks, but straight-up uses facial recognition to identify repeat customers and prepare their order.

The list of chains that are going full robot goes on and on, too...

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Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are also on the automation train.

Wikimedia Commons | Griffin5

Former CEO of the partnered chains Andy Puzder (net worth: $45 million) said in 2016 that he liked Eatsa's ideas and wanted to try it out for himself.

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It's a logical progression, but it's also a big concern.

Show Me Institute | Show Me Institute

Automation is cool in some regards, but consider this: our society is predicated on everyone getting a job. What happens when low-level jobs have been completely automated?

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Minimum wage hikes can be problematic.

Wikimedia Commons | Fibonacci Blue

While everyone should be able to make a living wage, big companies often use minimum wage hikes as an excuse to lay off workers and automate processes.

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Nearly a billion jobs are threatened.

Wikimedia Commons | War on Want

As many as 800 million jobs by 2030, to be exact. That study calls on governments to create solutions to this impending crisis before it's too late.

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