Technology is being developed that can cook food for fast-food restaurants to replace minimum wage workers who do that work today.
Fast-food workers are demanding higher pay so they can make a satisfactory living, while companies are trying to find a way to survive financially if they are required to increase their employee’s pay.
Meanwhile, researchers are trying to develop robots who can accomplish the tasks that minimum wage earners perform, reducing the human workforce required to maintain a restaurant.
The Employment Policies Institute, a pro-corporate entity, made the point in a Wall Street Journal ad against the increase in federally mandated minimum wage. “Faced with a $15 wage mandate, restaurants have to reduce the cost of service. That means fewer entry-level jobs and more automated alternatives, even in the kitchen.”
It will be a long while before automation replaces workers in the food preparation area of fast-food restaurants, although the machinery that cooks food is continually improved and updated. But the area where automation can replace human beings is the most human part of the job – customer interaction.
Several popular restaurant brands, including Chili’s and Applebee’s, places electronic tablets on tables which can allow diners to order their meal and pay for it without ever interacting with a waiter or waitress. Restaurants can then reduce their staff to those who bring the food from the kitchen to the table.
Panera is introducing a self-service ordering kiosk in store as well as a mobile ordering app for all of its locations within three years. Again, that allows restaurants to reduce staff to those who prepare orders, eliminating staffers who take orders.
When announcing its proposed new system, Panera said it did not intend to have any job cuts as a result of the technology advancement.
Meanwhile, in England, University of Oxford researchers have studied advancements in food preparation technology, and have pointed to self-driving cars that could deliver food, as well as startup companies developing robots for bartending and hamburger preparation.
But consumer experts do not think customers will adjust quickly to some changes in food preparation.
“If you look at the thousands of years that consumers have been served alcohol and food by people, it’s hard to imagine that things will change that quickly,’’ said Darren Tristano, a food industry expert with the research firm Technomic.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.