The fast-food industry has become ground zero for the “fight for $15” minimum wage.
That’s the same space where a growing number of restaurant owners are attracting a tsunami of attention by buying expensive robots to do jobs historically done by humans — like preparing food and handling money.
The CaliBurger restaurant chains has plans to install a burger-flipping robot named “Flippy” in 50 locations around the world. The robotic kitchen assistant was created by a California startup company called Miso Robotics and is expected to roll out in 2018, CBS reported.
CaliBurger is hardly alone. A growing number of startups and long-established fast-food giants are finding ways to marry cooking with technology, including forming partnerships to do so.
American are worried about robots taking their jobs in their lifetimes — more worried than enthusiastic. They view certain professions as being at greater risk than others, with fast food topping the list, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 4,135 U.S. adults conducted May 1-15, 2017.
“This is a game-changer for an industry that has long been trying to figure out how to slip out of the ongoing demands of employees and legislators for higher wages.”
The median pay for the nearly 5 million U.S. fast-food employees in 2016 was $9.44, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fast food employees have been protesting for higher wages around the U.S.
California plans to raise the rate to $15 by 2022, and several California cities have already raised the minimum wage.
A vocal opponent of the fight for $15 is Ed Rensi, former president and CEO of McDonald’s USA. “A $15 minimum wage would force many small businesses to lay off staff, seek less-costly locations, or close altogether,” Rensi wrote in a guest column for Forbes.
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McDonald’s plans to roll out of touchscreen self-service kiosks. McDonald’s shares hit an all-time high in June 2017 after the fast food chain announced that kiosks will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants, CNBC reported.
CaliBurger CEO John Miller said he believes the kitchen can be entirely automated. “We really think of ourselves as a technology company that happens to sell cheeseburgers,” he said, according to CBS.
Robots will probably replace workers in their current jobs, said Miso CEO David Zito. He predicts humans will always play a critical role in hospitality. “We just don’t know what the new roles will be yet in the industry.”
A $5 minimum wage increase is unsustainable for a lot of companies, said Peter Tateishi of the Sacramento Metro Chamber. “You’re talking about $12,000 increase per employee… where does that money come from,” warned
Ultimately, you will have to decide if you want your fast food cooked by a tech company.
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