Robots will replace fast-food workers

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4138
Robots will replace fast-food workers

Do you think wage increases will drive the fast food industry to use more automated processes to cut back on workers? Have you been to Chili's or Applebee's recently and if so what what did you think about having a tablet at the table to place or pay for your order? If not would that make you less likely to go there?

As protesters across the country call for the fast-food chains to raise their wages, a number of companies have begun experimenting with new technology that could significantly reduce the number of restaurant workers in the years to come.
Restaurant industry backers warn that a sharp rise in wages would be counterproductive, increasing the appeal of automation and putting more workers at risk of job loss.

"Faced with a $15 wage mandate, restaurants have to reduce the cost of service," blared an ad in The Wall Street Journal last year from the Employment Policies Institute, which supports corporate interests. "That means fewer entry-level jobs and more automated alternatives -- even in the kitchen."

Other industry observers aren't so definitive, noting that it takes time to introduce new technology and that human interaction has always been a major component of the hospitality business. What's clear at least is that software and machines will play an increased role in our dining experiences going forward.

Panera Bread (PNRA) is the latest chain to introduce automated service, announcing last month that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks as well as a mobile ordering option to all its locations within the next three years. The news follows moves from Chili's and Applebee's to place tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff at all.

Panera, which spent $42 million developing its new system, claims it isn't planning any job cuts as a result of the technology, but some analysts see this kind of shift as unavoidable for the industry.

In a widely cited paper released last year, University of Oxford researchers estimated that there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.

With artificial-intelligence technology like IBM's (IBM, Fortune 500) Watson platform making strides in advanced reasoning and language understanding, it's not hard to see how robots could be designed to provide more sophisticated interactions with restaurant customers than kiosks can manage.

Delivery drivers could be replaced en masse by self-driving cars, which are likely to hit the market within a decade or two, or even drones. In food preparation, there are start-ups offering robots for bartending and gourmet hamburger preparation. A food processing company in Spain now uses robots to inspect heads of lettuce on a conveyor belt, throwing out those that don't meet company standards, the Oxford researchers report.
Darren Tristano, a food industry expert with the research firm Technomic, said digital technology will "slowly, over time, create efficiency and labor savings" for restaurants. He guessed that work forces would only drop as a result by 5% or 10% at a maximum in the decades to come, however, given the expectations that customers have for the dining experience.

"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," he said.

Robots will replace fast-food workers - May. 22, 2014

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Even before this I remember going to places like A&W in the 80s and ordering by phone at the table Smile I totally think we will go this way.. And don't mind it at all.. people need to start working harder, and stop raising the min wage or there will be no MINIMUM wage workers.. they will all be subsidized by the state instead. Do NOT get me wrong.. Min wage workers are not lazy.. but those jobs are meant to be for college kids (starting workers) or part time employees... If you want more $$ college or post high school training should be needed.. I would rather see wages for middle-class workers.. IE those driving tanker trucks earning 40K a year etc etc.